Perfect for birthdays, bank holidays... who are we kidding, Saskia’s chocolate and pistachio fudge is perfect every day!


  • 350 grams dark chocolate (chopped, minimum 70% cocoa solids)
  • 1 x 397 grams can of condensed milk
  • 30 grams butter
  • Pinch of salt
  • 150 grams of pistachios (or 250 grams of plain digestive biscuits)


  • Put the chopped chocolate, condensed milk, butter and salt in a heavy-based pan on a low heat, and stir to melt.
  • Put the nuts (or digestives!) into a freezer bag and bash them with a rolling pin, until broken up into both big and little pieces.
  • Add the nuts or digestives (or both!) to the melted chocolate and condensed milk and stir well to mix.
  • Pour and spatch the mixture into a foil tray 23cm/9 inch square, smoothing the top.
  • Let the fudge cool, and refrigerate until set. You can then cut it into small pieces, cutting 7 x 7 lines in the tin is the best way to achieve 64 pieces.
  • Once cut, it can be kept in the freezer - no need to thaw just eat straight away!

The recipe may be a classic from Nigella, but if you’re not a fan of pistachios, try swapping them for digestive biscuits. It tastes just as amazing!

News from the Roost

Six years? You’re joking!

The 1st of April is a pretty important day. It’s the day that the ruins of Pompeii were rediscovered, the day that the Big Bang theory was first proposed in the Physical review, and the day that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple Computer from Job’s parents’ garage. Oh, and it’s also a little thing called April Fools’ Day too. But the most significant of all? It’s the day that Chatter was born 6 years ago. Yep, 6 years – where did that time go?

‘Tis the season to… eat our body weight in chocolate

This year, the annual Chatter Easter egg hunt was actually very civilised. Probably because Lisa was a few hundred miles away on a plane to Benidorm with the girls. Once we’d found (and noshed!) all the chocolate, Saskia headed south to visit her nearest and dearest, Fi celebrated birthdays for two thirds of her ‘mini-me’s at Alton Towers, Ben was giving it large at a lasagne party (yeah, we’re not sure either!), and as for the rest of us… well, more chocolate of course.

We’re gonna need a bigger… trophy cabinet

Wahey! We’ve just found out that we’ve been nominated for the HR Excellence award for Most Effective use of Internal Communications - for our work with Criteo which included a brill onboarding project. The do is on Tuesday 27th June at the London Hilton on Park Lane, which means it’s going to be a pretty fancy affair. Good job we all scrub up well when we need to, eh? We’re up against the likes of Celesio (the folk behind Lloyds pharmacy), HSBC, Superdrug and the University of Sheffield… so wish us luck!

Meet the Flockers

As the story goes, Bazza ended up in recruitment comms because he didn’t much like the idea of getting a proper job after University. So, the next best option was to write about other people’s.

Since then, he’s written all kinds of copy for all kinds of clients. From recruitment and employee comms projects for UK household names, to consumer-driven above the line, retail, TV, radio, web copy and more, for some of the world’s biggest businesses. His career has taken him from junior placements at ad agencies in London, right through to Head of Copy level stints in agencies across Manchester and the north via a short time at a pan-European agency in Brussels, and finally to running his own creative studio by the beach up in the North East. Phew.

His work has been read, watched, viewed, played, listened to, scrolled, consumed, clicked on, linked to, copied, pasted, talked about, argued over, and remembered by millions of people across the world.

You’re probably already one of them.

But… when he’s not writing completely pretentious rubbish about himself in the third person, you’ll find him in the North Sea at Tynemouth if there are any waves, out on his mountain bike if there aren’t, or reluctantly watching Peppa Pig for the 18 millionth time with one of his four kids if he doesn’t manage to escape from the house unseen.

As is tradition over here at the Roost we asked Baz if he could only listen to, watch, read and own one thing for the rest of his life, what would they be? Here’s what he had to say...

“Man, don’t ask me that… it’s the toughest question in the world. What I do at the minute is just let Spotify make all the decisions for me – their personalised Discover playlist digs up all kinds of awesome stuff for me every Monday morning. This week’s soundtrack has mostly been by Eluvium, an ambient producer from Oregon… next week’s will be something entirely different. If I had to pick one record, it would probably be A Storm in Heaven, Verve’s first album, for lots and lots of reasons.”

“As for one thing to watch, I don’t get to check out much telly these days other than Peppa Pig, as I’ve mentioned. Bah. I probably know most of Daddy Pig’s lines off by heart though, so that’s something. One thing I definitely try to catch are the eleven World Surf League tour events each year… how mad is it that you can actually watch an entire surf contest, completely live, shot from the water in places like Fiji and Tahiti?! I remember when you had to wait a month for the next magazine to come out before you found out who won. I’m not sure I could watch a film over and over and over again, so for this one I’m gonna pick the video of Kelly Slater and Rob Machado in the Pipe Masters Semi Final on the North Shore in Hawaii, December 18th 1995. I still get the shivers every time I see that thing.”

“Reading is another tricky one as I don’t get as much time to get stuck into a book as I’d like. What keeps me occupied most at the minute is the journalism at the New York Times (there’s a lot to write about these days), however I’ve got a bunch of books racked up on the Kindle that are biographies (of famous surfers, mostly) and travel accounts from people who’ve cycled across countries or around the world. One day I’ll find the time to do the same. However, for this bit, I’m gonna choose a book called Barbarian Days by a guy called William Finnegan. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 2016 and is an account of growing up surfing in Cali and Hawaii, with tons of world travel chucked in. I’ve almost finished it and I already want to start it again!”

“Ok, one thing to own… my 6” Lost Bottom Feeder. You might need to Google that one, but I’ll probably end up being buried with it when the day comes.”

Internal Comms That Have No Fear

From a startup incubator in Paris to the worldwide leader in digital performance advertising, Criteo’s growth has been nothing short of astounding. Today, they’re probably one of the biggest tech businesses you've never heard of.

However, growth of this kind of scale comes with equally big challenges. Such as making sure that internal systems and processes can keep up with that growth, while also making sure that everyone in the business is aware of those systems and knows how to use them… and that’s where Chatter came in.

In the last 12 months alone, we’ve helped Ellie, Senior Director of Internal Communications, and her team to launch a new HR system called cHRIS, a new way to manage expenses called Vikings, a new CRM tool called HOUSE (we helped them kill off their old one which was called Dexter!), and a brand new way to onboard employees called FlyCriteo, which makes sure that their new starters' careers really take off… (oh, and a heck of a lot more, too!)

With so much going on, it was essential to ensure that each of these new systems gained traction across the business, and that each employee developed a good understanding of what those systems could do for them.

It all meant that we not only had to launch and embed brand new ways of working – we had to scale up all their communications activity so that it made a huge impact on 32 offices across the globe. What’s more, we also needed it all to work as part of an overall communications strategy that used the kind of pop culture references the guys in Criteo love.

Trust us, it was one of the most exciting jobs we’ve ever worked on!

We recently caught up with our friend and all round lovely lady, Ellie, for a bit of a chat…

How did you get into the industry?

I actually fell into the industry about 15 years ago. I was working for the CTO of 3UK and was writing his comms, creating newsletters for his team, and also organising events for an office where around 1,500 people worked. One day he asked me ‘what do you actually want to do in your career’? I didn’t know that Internal Comms was the name for what I was already doing naturally (and loving!), but he supported me in applying for my first Internal Communications role and I never looked back. I’d found something that I was passionate about then and I’m still passionate about now, and something that still challenges every day me but also plays to my key strengths.

What would you do if you didn’t do this?

A travel writer! Visiting cool places, talking to the locals, writing creative stories… whilst being paid for it! 

What’s the best piece of advice you've received in your career?

I was told to ‘listen, really listen’. As a communicator, and an extrovert, it’s sometimes easy to think silence is uncomfortable and to try to fill it. But I’ve learned that silence can also create time for ideas to form, for others to come forward, and for reflection. 

What advice would you give someone starting out in the sector?

In many companies, the Internal Communications ‘department’ is just a lone person or a very small team. I’d advise anyone new to this sector to find a mentor or someone in the industry in another company (or even find a LinkedIn forum) to bounce ideas off so that you don’t feel that you are completely on your own. You’ll find people who have tried all sorts of tools, methods, channels and suppliers – their suggestions could save you a load of time and they’re always keen to give you solid advice on how to approach problems in alternative ways.

What's the best thing about working with Chatter?

I love the energy and creativity of the Chatter team. They have a knack for getting to the root of a request need really quickly and are able to turn it into something creative, quirky, beautiful or sometimes, something very simple that avoids any misinterpretation. I see them as a natural extension of my team.

What are you reading, watching or listening to at the moment? 

I’m binge-watching Homeland. I thought that life would end after Breaking Bad finished… but I’ve found my new addiction!

What’s your guilty pleasure?

I am an avid, avid fan of ‘Labyrinth’ with the late, great David Bowie. I wore out my first video I played it so often. I had the outfit worn by Sarah. I have the T-Shirt. I have the mug. Still obsessed 20-something years after first seeing it. David Bowie in tights! 

Three words to describe yourself? 

Engaging. Energising. Exuberant.

What fact would surprise most people about you? 

I trained in Classic Opera singing and have sung on TV!

From lecture theaters to conference rooms

Going from a lifetime in education to starting your first graduate job is a pretty big deal. And, amongst the excitement of graduation ceremonies and ‘congratulations’ cards, it can be a very real and daunting change.

2016 saw the arrival of 4 fresh faced graduate Chatterinos at the Roost, straight out of uni. And now that we’ve all passed our probations with flying colours (wahey!) we thought it was about time we shared some advice to help this year’s graduates, far and wide, make the most of those vital first few months in their new job.

So, put those course books down, stop harvard referencing, and let us put your minds at ease. It’s not as scary as it seems...

Sophie, Graphic Arts at Winchester School of Art 

This time last year, I was having a dilemma - should I follow my head and go back to uni, fresh from the Easter break as planned, to work my socks off, or follow my heart and stay up North for a few extra weeks before heading back, to see what doors the Leeds Digital Festival might open? Well my heart won (sorry head!) and I’ve not looked back since.

A few months after coming to an open day as part of the festival, and deliberately applying for the wrong role (just so I could chat to them again), I found myself arriving at the Roost for my first day as a two week old graduate, walking into a flexible role that allowed me to shape my own responsibilities and expertise. Now 9 months in, I couldn’t have asked for a better start to working life. So, here’s a bit of advice that’s really helped me find my feet…

  • Ask questions. It’s healthy. Nobody expects you to have an encyclopedic knowledge of everything when you walk through the door on day one. You will learn so much more in your first couple of weeks by being engaged, present and enthusiastic, than in your three years of studying.

  • It’s a two way street. Your employers will learn just as much from you, as you will from them. You’re a fresh pair of eyes and that's invaluable; your opinions, thoughts and perspective will challenge theirs, encouraging a more openly thinking and collaborative working environment. That’s a win win for everyone.

Russell, Marketing and Advertising Management at Leeds Beckett

Finishing uni is bittersweet. Or at least it was for me. Bitter because you have to wave goodbye to the student life: Those midweek nights on the town and surfacing mid-afternoon the following day, knocking out a few hours of work and calling it a hard day’s graft. Sweet because I got the grade I wanted and had the chance to celebrate around my family and friends at my graduation. The daunting thing was that I hadn’t secured a job for after I had finished. Little did I know the coolest kids in people communications were just across the road. A speculative job application, a few phone calls and two interviews later, and boom. I had arrived at Chatter. Fast-forward 10 months later and I’m settled into one of the best teams on the planet, and I’ve learned a couple of things along the way too…

  • Don’t be afraid to let people Miyagi you: when you make the transition from the classroom to office, you might find yourself doing odd jobs over and over again, and you might think there is little value. But be patient, it won’t be long before the reigns come off, and hey presto: You know exactly what needs to be done and exactly how to do it. You become a much more valuable resource when people around the business can give you a piece of work, wind you up and set you on your way without having to worry about you mucking it up.

  • Take something, and make it your own: when you start any new role - especially your first after graduating you’ll be expected to the learn the basics of the role as a starter, which is great, it gives you the tools you need to do your job and helps you settle in and get your feet under the table. But if you can, find your niche. There will be parts of the job you love, and parts you don’t. If you can really hone in on the thing you’re really good at and make it your own, you’ll become much more involved in heavy duty projects and garner much more responsibility, pretty simply because you’ll be the go to guy (or gal) for your specialist area. Your word won’t quite be gospel, but people will come to you for answers and tips on whatever your niche might be!

Ben, Music Production at Futureworks School of Media

Almost 2 years ago now I was leaving university and making my first venture into the real world. It was exciting in a few ways, and utterly frightening in others. My name is Ben and I’m a recent addition to the team here at Chatter. I’m a 23 year old, white t-shirt wearing, audio enthusiast and I’m loving working at Chatter more and more each day!

I studied music production at university in Manchester, a bit of a cop-out degree some might say, and I might agree. I chose music on the grounds that it’s the thing I love the most, not because It would challenge me (though it did) and definitely not because of the job prospects. Spoiler alert: There aren’t any. I’m now 10 months into my account exec role at Chatter, and I’m looking back at the person I was just out of Uni and here’s a couple of things that I noticed that might help you too as you take your first steps into the workplace...

  • Don't let a job get in the way of your family and your friends. There's a lot less time in the day when you’re working 9 ‘til 5. When I started at Chatter I was living in Manchester and commuting to and from Leeds each and everyday. Even though I wouldn't get home until 7:45 most days I didn't let it stop me spending quality time with my girlfriend, watching Game of Thrones in the pub on Mondays with my mates and going to see the family at weekends - make it work and you'll be happier because of it.

  • Use your free time to do the things that you love. As I mentioned, you're likely to have less time to now that you've taken your first step into the world of work. Using the time you do have free on weekends and evenings to further your hobby or socialise with friends will keep you from going insane. Organise your time to make sure you do get a few hours on a saturday to play football with your pals or learn that guitar riff you've been working on.

Charlotte, Marketing and Advertising Management at Leeds Beckett

As an absolute homebird, who commuted to university for 4 years (who’d have thought Sheffield would mean so much to a person!), I was definitely scared at the thought that I may have to fly the nest to find a job that really fit my extrovert personality. After meeting the guys at Chatter and realising just what a friendly bunch they really are, I decided to take it upon myself to make the move up to Leeds. This really gave me the opportunity to throw myself into workloads and projects, which resulted in me learning so much more than I ever thought I would! Now, nearing my 1 year anniversary at The Roost, I am so proud of how much I’ve achieved over the past year, and it really does come from believing in yourself and learning from those around you.

  • Be true to yourself. Don't feel as though, just because you're coming into a more formal environment, you need to change who you are - it could be because of who you are, that ended up in you winning the job!
  • Don't worry too much about your final grade. University gives you a great base of knowledge but you won’t use all of this in the workplace. You’ll find you learn so much more as you go on, and it's okay to take that at your own pace. Everyone picks things up differently, so don't feel as though you're slow or you can't do the work, just believe in yourself and take as many opportunities to learn as you can.

Unlike Sophie, Charlotte, Ben & Russell, Saskia joined Chatter through a slightly different route...

Saskia, Digital Marketing Apprentice now Marketing Executive

From leaving Sixth Form in June 2015, I knew that I wanted to begin my "working-life" through an apprenticeship scheme. And whilst going to university was an option, I'd been made aware of the many benefits that an apprenticeship had to offer. The ability to get involved and learn new skills everyday, gain experience working within a fast-paced environment, and, of course, earning a salary whilst learning!

Don’t get me wrong, it was a daunting process. Going from 3:30pm finishes and the only care in the world was hoping that there would be enough Lasagne left at lunch. But with the support of your work colleagues, you’ll feel right at home in no time.

Here are my top tips for those transitioning from Sixth Form to the workplace…

  • Since joining Chatter as an apprentice, I've really valued the opportunities that have been given to me. I've learnt so much in the last year. So my advice is to be completely open-minded. Be willing and show enthusiasm towards new ideas and learning new skills.

  • As most people probably know, Team Chatter are a pretty sociable bunch. Working in such a close environment, where you're spending 5 days a week with the same people, it really does help to be able to call your work colleagues friends.


Our Susanne does love a bit of cheese - so here’s her cauliflower cheese with a twist - ‘Cheesey does it’!


  • 1 medium cauliflower - broken into large florets
  • 2 slices of bacon - chopped
  • 2 spring onions - chopped
  • 40g/1.5oz butter
  • 40g/1.5oz plain flour
  • 400ml/14fl oz milk
  • 100g/3.5oz grated mature cheddar cheese
  • Salt and black pepper.


1. Preheat oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.

2. Wash the cauliflower and place in a large saucepan of salted water. Bring to the boil and cook for 3-5 minutes until the cauliflower is almost tender but still fairly firm, then leave to drain.

3. Chop and fry off the bacon and leave to one side.

4. To make the sauce, melt the butter in a medium, heavy-based pan and stir in the flour. Cook over a gentle heat for one minute. Remove the pan from the heat and gradually add the milk, a little at a time, stirring well between each addition. Return the pan to a medium heat and bring the mixture to the boil, stirring constantly. Simmer for two minutes, then remove from the heat.

5. Add two thirds of the cheese and stir in until melted. Stir in the spring onions and bacon and set aside.

6. Arrange the cauliflower in an ovenproof baking dish. Carefully pour over the sauce, ensuring the cauliflower is completely covered. Scatter over the remaining cheese and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden-brown and bubbling.

TOP TIP: For a vegetarian option simply make without the bacon.

News from the Roost

Oh what a night…

You know it’s been a good night when winning an award was only the second best thing that happened during the evening. This month, we trooped down to the Onrec Awards at the Grange Hotel, St Pauls. After scooping a gong alongside the Sky Betting and Gaming team for our work on AskJeff, and Paul only just missing out on being Personality of the Year, we ended the night by dancing until the early hours at Kanaloa, donned in flower garlands and knocking back the pina coladas as we watched the entire bar catch fire! Actually, now we think about it, that award probably was the best bit of the night.

We ♡ our mums

Curious about what we’re all up to on the day? We’ll spill. Sas is taking her mum for a champagne cream tea at Malmaison. Charlotte’s whisking her mum and grandma off for a spa day. Paul’s mum is helping him with the big move, so she’ll be emptying kitchen cupboards, washing windows, and bossing people around (although we’re sure there’ll be a big bunch of flowers and a dinner in it for her though!) Fi’s hoping for a breakfast in bed from her 3 mini me’s, and it’s pub lunches for all the other Chatter mums. And whatever you get up to this weekend, we hope you (and your mums!) have a lovely time.

Horsey horsey

If you know anything about racing, you’ll know that the Cheltenham Festival isn’t just the highlight of the jump season – it’s the ultimate horse racing experience. Which is why Lisa and Fi jumped (geddit?) at the chance to be there on Ladies Day, with premium hospitality no less, thanks to Sky Betting and Gaming. The rest of us watched on telly and cheered on Lisa’s tip, Thomas Crapper (it did as well as you would expect) in the 3.30. Only Harry came out on top with a win by his namesake, unowhatimeanharry, bagging him an incredible £7. Don’t give up your day job just yet, H!

Meet the Chatterinos

Fiona fell into recruitment advertising about 16 years ago with a bit of a vague notion that doing ‘something in advertising/PR/marketing’ sounded like quite a cool career (yeah, we’ve all had that thought at some point!)

Having done a drama degree it wasn’t the most obvious career path, but she loved it from day one and has never looked back!

Since then, she’s worked with some fantastic clients throughout her career, from major retailers to recruitment consultancies to housing associations so there aren’t many talent attraction challenges left to conquer. And having worked previously in two large media agencies, she’s now the ‘go to’ person for media here at the Roost.

The rest of Fi’s time is spent managing some amazing new clients, re-living her youth vicariously through Harry and Alfie, and learning loads of new tricks from Lisa, Jon and Paul. In fact, she admired Chatter from afar since day one, and in her own words “working here is quite honestly a dream come true and every day is a blast”.

And who are we to argue?

Outside of work, Fi’s married and spends much of her time also living vicariously through her three daughters (there’s a theme forming here, right!), indulging her passion for performing and all things Disney by using her girls as her cover. She also manages to squeeze in the occasional TV quiz show appearance and takes any opportunity she can to… ahem… entertain colleagues, friends and family with karaoke renditions.

Carrying on with the what if’s, we asked Fi if she could only listen to, watch, read and own one thing for the rest of her life, what would it be? Here’s what she had to say...


“Hmmm… I’m known at the Roost for loving my country music, from Dolly Parton to Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, The Shires and the whole Nashville soundtrack. And I love a bit of classic Take That, almost anything from the 80s, and any show tune I can belt out. Ok, that probably explains why I’m never allowed to choose the Sonos playlist in the office. But the album that currently takes me to my happy place is the La La Land soundtrack. Musical perfection!”

“It’s probably going to shock the rest of the Chatterinos that I'm not picking a Disney film here. In all honesty I couldn’t narrow it down to just one. Plus when you have 3 young children who like to watch the Disney movie channel on repeat, the novelty does wear off somewhat! And my fave grown up films are a joint tie between the Back to the Future trilogy and Singing in the Rain. But, if I could only watch one thing forever, it would have to be my Sex and the City box set! Pure escapism with Carrie, Miranda, Sam and Charlotte. Accompanied by a large glass of wine. Heaven!”

“I’m a huge reader so this is a really tough one as I get through around 10 books per month! They’re mostly post apocalyptic/supernatural themed young adult fiction (basically I just haven’t changed my reading habits since I was 15!) But the one book series that I could read time and time again is Harry Potter, or if I absolutely had to narrow it down, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I must have read the complete set about 6 or 7 times in the last decade and every time it’s as gripping as it was first time round.”

“Tempting as it is to go for something multifunctional like my iPhone, if I could only own one thing I think it would have to be a big fluffy duvet! I love my sleep!!!”

Can we do innovation?

After gaining independence from Sky itself, Sky Betting & Gaming wanted to raise their profile and build a strong reputation as an employer in their own right.

Especially as they were growing fast and had over 200 live opportunities, including many hard to fill software developer roles in fairly saturated Leeds and Sheffield markets.

When they were named one of The Sunday Times ‘Top 100 Best Companies To Work For’, we spotted an unmissable chance to shout about what makes them different, to position them as an employer of choice to great tech talent in Leeds, Sheffield and beyond, and to try a few of our own groundbreaking ideas.

And boy, did it work! In 2016 they recruited 750 new people, with 300 in technology positions. Unbelievable, Jeff!

And that was just for starters. Since then, we’ve helped Sky Betting and Gaming deliver a fresh careers site, open a second office in Sheffield, win a whole host of awards, and bring their tribal spirit to life through a new employer brand.

We even worked together to deliver a recruitment industry first, and a world first too: our very own Ask Jeff. It’s an AI chatbot built on the Facebook Messenger platform and based on the larger than life personality of Sky Sport’s, Jeff Stelling.

AskJeff is able to pose and respond to questions on the company’s culture, an applicant’s status, business locations, benefits, social opportunities and more. It uses artificial intelligence and natural language processing to give applicants 24/7 access to the recruitment process – which means it offers a responsive, interactive and enormously innovative experience from the moment an application starts, right through to someone’s first day with the company.

We’re very proud parents of Ask Jeff, and we can’t wait to conceive our next big idea.

In the meantime, we caught up with Head of Recruitment and all round top bloke, Matt Hughan, to find out a bit more…

How did you get into the industry?

"I fell into it in all honesty. I loved sports and betting and worked for arch rivals William Hill for 3 years in retail ops. I was approached for a role with another bookmaker but discovered I was more interested in talking to the recruiter than talking about the job in question. We stayed in touch and the rest is history. The agency came back and offered me a role recruiting into betting and gaming companies and I haven’t looked back. I loved agency life at first but like many, I couldn’t face the constant target driven daily call metrics. So I moved in-house and progressed through the ranks at Samvo.com and Jet2.com before landing here at SBG. When we divested out of Sky in 2015 and the CEO asked me if I wanted to stay on and head up recruitment, there was only ever one answer!"

What would you do if you didn’t do this?

"Something sport oriented, probably related to golf. In my early career I had a couple of interviews with some small sports marketing companies representing upcoming golfers on the various UK and European tours. Obviously, nothing ever came of it but who knows, I could have been the next Jerry McGuire!"

What’s the best piece of advice you've received in your career?

"Get to know everyone. It’s part and parcel of the role in recruitment and so much is leveraged off our networks to find the right people, but in an SME like Sky Bet and the larger companies I’ve worked at, you simply can’t know enough people. It helps with literally everything and once you know the right people you can learn, develop, engage and deliver value to the business by joining the dots between them all."

What advice would you give someone starting out in the sector?

"As above, get to know literally everyone you can. Work hard and don’t settle for ‘just enough’. Push boundaries, push yourself and don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything. Working in recruitment is about finding new ways of working, and new ways of finding and engaging talent – and to do this successfully you need to constantly try new things."

What's the best thing about working with Chatter?

"Their enthusiasm and creativity is great and they never want to stand still and regurgitate the same old campaigns. I have no idea how they get through the amount of work they do either, burning the candle at both ends and still able deliver on time, every time. They know how to enjoy themselves too, an absolute must if working with us!"

What are you reading, watching and listening to at the moment?

"I’m currently not reading anything but I have just ordered Work Rules by Laszlo Bock the former Google CHRO and How To Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie in a vain attempt to try sound intelligent. As I write, I’m watching West Ham v Chelsea but with a 3.5-year-old and a 1 year old, Disney Channel’s Miles from Tomorrow (catchy theme tune, right?!), The Lion Guard and something dinosaur related are never far from the screen. Music wise, anything goes really but I love listening to the TED Radio Hour on my commute."

What’s your guilty pleasure?

"Chocolate. Bloody love the stuff."

Three words to describe yourself?

"I hope people would describe me as a 1) proper 2) decent 3) bloke. I certainly try to be anyway!"

What fact would surprise most people about you?

"Believe it or not, I was once fairly fit and I still hold my school record for the most points scored for the First XV rugby team in a season. 138 points in 12 games."

Virtual… recruitment?

Virtual reality is a term that’s been thrown around a lot recently. It’s been the centre of a massive 360° hype, with countless companies rushing to incorporate VR into their strategies without taking full advantage of the opportunities that it presents. Because of that, many people reckon it’s past it’s best. You might even be yawning at the mention! Well, stick with us a for little longer, we promise you won’t be disappointed...

Here at Chatter we reckon that, with a bit of care and consideration and not just using VR for “cool’s” sake, there’s loads of potential for it to enhance the way business attract, recruit and engage their people. From immersive ‘day in the life’ videos, to live talks and 360° infographics, businesses around the world are taking VR by the horns to bring their culture to life.

We’ve pulled together a few of our favourites. So get your headsets at the ready (don’t forget to set the video to VR mode by tapping the headset button on the video) and prepare to jump into the future of your people communications…

So to kick things off, what’s your favourite chocolate? Your dream supercar? Your tipple of choice? Now, imagine if it was your job to ask those questions every day… pretty cool, huh? Well, The Telegraph recently commissioned a series of short 360° ‘Day in the life of’ videos to give an insight into weird and wonderful jobs in the UK. From stunt driving to gin distilling (though best not to put those two together…) and everything in between, the series allows us to jump right into the action of some of the quirkiest jobs in the country.

You can check out the full series here, but our favourite has got to be Kat Dixon. She’s a Senior Aquarist at the Sea Life London Aquarium, and spends her days chilling out with this dapper looking bunch…

Stopped thinking about all that chocolate and Gin? Well I hope so, because you’ll need a stomach of steel for this next one… Last year, the US Air Force special ops launched a 360° campaign that puts candidates right at the heart of the action. With the strapline ‘We need people who can do this’, the series is the antithesis of a sugar coated attraction campaign. The footage is raw and authentic, featuring the kind of heart stopping, nerve tingling and hair raising situations that special ops recruits experience day in day out. You can rescue a fallen colleague, have a seat in the cockpit and even jump out of a plane whilst in a boat (it’s called a zodiac drop, and it gives Bond a run for his money!)

You can find them all here, but the one that’s had us all swaying around the Roost is this HALO jump, a tactic used by US Air Force special ops to enter hostile territory undetected when threats are expected. Sounds intense!

When they’re not jumping out of planes, open, honest and frank discussion is one of the best ways to keep your employees engaged. Whether it’s a tech talk from the hottest new start up, a panel of industry experts chatting about latest trends, or just an internal get together over a couple of beers and a pizza… Businesses around the world are embracing the power of discussion to keep their people intrigued, educated, and most importantly, engaged.

For Amazon’s up and coming rival, Jet.com, tech talks and other continued learning events have become the lifeblood of their company. With one of their values being ‘Transparency’, they think that openly sharing information and ideas empowers people to do amazing things. Putting this into action, they opened their doors to the public and invited them to view one of the tech talks in 360°...

A company's brand is one of its most valuable assets, and a huge element of that is culture. From behaviours to values, a company should aspire to employ people who embody their culture. In doing so, they become brand advocates; a group of proud, passionate and engaged people who live, eat and breathe their brand.

At CollegeHumor, a leading online entertainment company founded by two high school best friends, their culture is everything. Afterall, if your job description includes spending your days finding the funniest and most off beat content on the web, you’d expect to find yourself in an equally wild and wonderful working environment. Well, not ones to disappoint, the guys at CollegeHumor opened their doors for a 360° tour of their regular, boring, ‘nothing weird here’ office...

Culture is established from a company's story. It’s the humble beginnings, key milestones, and vision of the future that bring their culture to life for a candidate, so communicating the story in a clear, concise and authentic way is a big challenge for lots of businesses. Infographics have become a bit of a celebrity for taking complex content and translating it into a simple and digestible message, because of this, lots of businesses are using them to explore their heritage and tell their stories.

A story we didn’t see coming was Michelle Obama’s recent rise to queen, or first lady of social media (all thanks to that Turnip video), and neither did the guys at The Verge. They brought the story to life in a whole new dimension, using a mixture of 360° footage and animated infographics to let us walk through the story, literally...

So, still yawning? I didn’t think so. If you fancy having a chat about how VR could bring your people strategy to life, you know where we are…

Meet the Partners

Here’s Lisa's story…

Lisa fell into recruitment communications around 17 years ago after a spell in a full service agency. Luckily for us, she loved it - especially the thinking processes behind candidate engagement - and decided to make it her career.

Since then, she’s held Agency and Regional Director roles for the biggest and best recruitment comms agencies in the industry and has had the pleasure of working with some great clients too, including O2, MTV, Morrisons, First Group, ITV and Sky Betting & Gaming.

However, despite loving the industry and everything it stood for, Lisa became more and more disillusioned with ‘big’ agency life. She felt that the client was getting a raw deal either through lack of resource, lack of creativity or lack of care, so rather than moan about it, she teamed up with Paul and Jon, and Chatter was born.

Throughout her career, Lisa has focused on delivering great service and great work for clients who she respects and enjoys working with. Her motto is: if we get that bit right, we can’t go far wrong!

It’s a simple, no-nonsense philosophy that’s just as ‘Yorkshire’ as Lisa is.

Next up... the really important stuff. We asked Lisa if she could only listen to, watch, read and own one thing for the rest of her life, what would it be? Here’s what she had to say…

“There’s always music on in the house, and I have music for all occasions. My cleaning album is Radiohead, High and Dry. I’m a big BBC 6 music fan on the weekend, particularly Hugh from the Fun Lovin’ Criminals and Craig Charles’ funk and soul show on a Saturday night.”

“My guilty pleasure when I’m on my own is Grey’s Anatomy. I’m about 9 series’ in, and it’s taken me 18 months! But I could also watch the The Wire time and time again, probably because of Idris Elba.”

“Haha… I have to say Jeffrey Archer. Paul and Harry could answer that one for me. Everyone takes the mickey, but no-one tells a story like good old Jeff! I’m also partial to You magazine. My dad saves them for me every week.”

“If I could only own one thing, it’d have to be a cracking bright red lippy…don’t care about the brand!”

News from the Roost

We’ve been mega busy this February...

Winning tons of new business, meeting loads of new clients, and even holding a successful team meeting that typically finished up in the pub. On top of that, Lisa’s been sunning it up in Tenerife, Paul broke his leg, and we’ve had a healthy trickle of clients popping in to the office for a chat. Oh, and there was all this, too:

We’re getting tooled up

Here at the Roost, we don't spend all of our time delivering great work against great client briefs. Ok, ok, we do. But what you might not know is that we also develop our own in-house tools too - and we think it's about time we told you about HUME, our brilliant new employer brand audit tool.

Led by our branding consultant Sara, HUME combines our experience of shaping award winning EVP/Employer Brand projects with best practice advice from the CIPD. It can give your employer brand a thorough healthcheck, help you focus on your priorities going forward, and provide valuable insight into how your offer stacks up against your competitors. Using robust scientific methodologies to test the 3 rational and 3 emotional dimensions that we believe make up any EVP, it's a quick, simple and cost-effective way to figure out your next steps when it comes to your employer brand.

Right now, we're completing a testing phase which includes a live test with a large pharmaceutical retailer. The results are very exciting and we're looking forward to opening HUME up to lots more of our clients. Want to find out more? Just drop us a line...

You’re hired!

It’s official. Saskia recently finished her QA Apprenticeship Digital Marketing course with flying colours, and is now a fully fledged Marketing Executive! She said “Dean and the QA tutors were really experienced and enthusiastic about digital marketing, and it was a great stepping stone into the industry. I really value the apprenticeship because it brought me to Chatter!”

Dean added “I was delighted this month to be able to confirm the completion of Saskia’s Apprenticeship… she’s now a qualified Digital Marketer with a City & Guilds Level 3 qualification. Saskia has worked exceptionally hard over the last 12 months to make a success of not only her qualification but to become a valuable part of the Chatter team. I am very proud of Saskia and I will miss her, her coffee and Chatter’s Tunnocks tea cakes! Thank you for always smiling!”

Roses are red…

Roses are red/Violets are blue/That doesn’t make sense/Surely they’re violet? Erm, anyhoo, it might be chilly outside, but things have been really hotting up indoors this month... Fi and Harry dined in for 2 for £20, Rusty whisked his missus off to Harrogate, and Charlotte got a special delivery. Blimey, it all happens here when love is in the air!

Here’s some More for you…

Think you’ve heard it all when it comes to candidate engagement? We’ve not even gotten properly started yet. So, here’s some More for you

O2 is one of the UK’s biggest and best employer brands. Their consumer brand promises More for you, and when it comes to candidate engagement they definitely don’t underdeliver, thanks in part to one of our recent campaigns…

Our kind of client

Suzanne, O2/Telefonica UK’s Head of Resourcing has been part of the business since 2010. She’s enthusiastic, great to have on your team, and committed to customer and candidate satisfaction. In other words, she’s definitely our kind of client.

Back in the summer of 2015, Suzanne and her team had an idea: create a brand new high street retail experience. Somewhere you could pop in, hang out, play with some cool tech, have a chat, and experience something a bit… well… different. So she asked us to help them bring their Stores of the Future to life.

No ordinary campaign

This was no ordinary campaign from start to finish. Right away, we decided that this project needed a different kind of creative approach, and our ‘different someone’ theme spoke to exactly the kind of massive personalities we were looking for. Our cracking copy and mix of highly targeted channel marketing attracted people who could make a natural connection with customers, build rapport and get some great long-term relationships going.


Creating an innovative candidate assessment experience was a challenge too, and our pop-up sensory ‘experience zones’ in London and Manchester let candidates see, smell, touch, taste and hear the future of retail. Literally. They left with a goodie bag to say thanks for taking part, and their feedback was simply fantastic. So fantastic in fact, that we also picked up a RAD for Best Candidate Engagement.

Time to catch up

We caught up with Suzanne recently to find out a little more about life in (and out!) of O2…

How did you get into the industry?

I was fortunate enough to be offered a place on the Halifax Graduate scheme (HBOS) and started life out as a Bank Manager – I was approached to manage their Graduate IT Scheme and snapped their hand off. It was an opportunity to give something back and help shape the scheme for future talent. Since then, I’ve never looked back. I love the Industry and I’m passionate about being a great Hiring Manager and providing a fantastic candidate experience.

What would you do if you didn’t do this?

I’ve always been interested in teaching, either Business or Theology!

What’s the best piece of advice you've received in your career?

Always keep the candidate at the heart of everything you do.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the sector?

Knowledge is key. Recruitment moves at pace and there’s always something new on the horizo. Bottom line – make the most of your network to help you stay ahead.

What's the best thing about working with Chatter?

They’re not afraid to challenge the norm and try something different. I truly look forward to seeing what they produce following a brief. Most of all, they’re great, hardworking folk that inject a lot of fun and energy into everything they do.

What was your highlight of the Stores of the Future project?

Besides recruiting some amazingly talented individuals within very tight timescales and picking up a RAD Award as a result, it would have to be the moment Lisa and I stepped into our pop up shop in London. It was a tense and nervous journey down to London that morning but the minute we opened the door, we immediately knew we had created something truly special.

What are you reading, watching and listening to at the moment?

I’d love to impress you with what I’m reading right now, but the truth is I have a 1 year old boy and a 3 year old little girl so I don’t really have the time to read, unless it features Peppa Pig or Paw Patrol. I do however live for music – this weekend’s breakfast disco (something my kids insist on) featured Stevie Wonder, Faithless and the Tribes.

I also watched Idris Elba: Fighter at the weekend, it amazes me that in just 12 months (and despite an injury), through hard work and determination, he went on to win his first professional kick boxing fight. Just goes to show, if you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Grabbing a bottle of red wine, a blanket and sitting in a field every weekend from April onwards watching cricket for up to 10 hours a day!

Three words to describe yourself?

Driven, determined and fun.

What fact would surprise most people about you?

My husband still doesn’t believe me, but in my younger years, I was the Yorkshire Cross Country champion – something I am very proud of.


It’s Lisa’s hearty Italian Ragu!

If February is the month of love, then Lisa’s hearty Italian Ragu is the recipe you’ve been waiting for. In fact, in the wise words of Elisa Cuthbert, there’s nothing more romantic than Italian food. Apparently.

If there’s someone you want to impress, you could do worse than knocking this up for tea. It’s part of our very own Chatter cookbook calendar, too – let us know if you want one!

The sauce

Extra virgin olive oil, 800g good quality stewing steak (2cm dice), 1 carrot trimmed and thinly sliced, 1 leek trimmed and thinly sliced, 1 celery stick thinly sliced, 2 garlic cloves peeled and finely chopped, a ‘glug' of red wine (small glass), 400g tin of chopped tomatoes, 300ml stock (chicken or beef, dun’t matter), 1 bay leaf, 1 small dried red chilli (crumbled) and sea salt.

The pasta

Tagliatelle or fettuccine, salted butter and grated parmesan.

The cooking bit

  1. Oven at 120c.
  2. You’ll need a big ovenproof pan or casserole pot you can use on the hob.
  3. Heat half of the oil and colour the beef (you might need to do in two stints).
  4. Add the remaining oil, add carrot, leek and celery and fry until it starts to colour and stir in the garlic just before the end.
  5. Pop the beef back in the pan, add the wine, tomatoes, stock, bay leaf and chilli, and season with a bit of salt.
  6. Bring to the boil, cover and cook in the oven for about 3 hours, then stir and cook uncovered for another hour.
  7. When you’re ready, cook the pasta in boiling salted water until just about tender, drain and return to the pan with plenty of salted butter.
  8. Serve the sauce with a buttery nest of pasta scattered with parmesan.


TOP TIP: to make it extra special, you can serve with a few scattered croutons to finish and fresh ‘torn’ basil too.



Like a baby bird with a big fat worm, #whatsfortea has well and truly whetted your appetite over the last 5 years.

Ok, maybe that wasn’t the best analogy, but we have created our very own cookbook calendar if you’re stuck for tea ideas. Let us know if you want one!

Alfie’s Steak and Guinness Pie


900g diced stewing steak, 25g flour, plus extra for dusting, 100g butter, 2 onions roughly chopped, 2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped, 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped, 150g button mushrooms, 2 sprigs fresh thyme, 400ml (Irish, of course) ale, 500ml beef stock, Salt and pepper, 1 egg beaten for glazing, 300g ready-made rolled puff pastry.


1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/428°F/Gas Mark 7.

2. Pour flour into a bowl and season well. Coat the meat with the seasoned flour.

3. Heat half the butter in a pan and add the meat. Sear all over until golden brown.

4. Add the vegetables, herbs, ale and stock. Bring to a simmer, then cover with a lid and gently simmer for 1 hr. When cooked, season, add the remaining butter and pour into an ovenproof serving dish.

5. Brush the edge of the dish with the beaten egg. Roll out the pastry using as little flour as possible and place over the dish.

6. Pinch the edges of the dish so that the pastry will stick to it and trim off any remaining pieces of pastry from around the edge. Brush the pastry top thoroughly with the remaining beaten egg and place on a baking tray.

7. Bake in the oven for 20-30 mins until the pastry is golden brown on top.

Top tip: Serve with buttery mash, seasonal vegetables, gravy and a tinnie or two!


Cheers Alf!

Meet the Flockers

Sara has been part of the Chatter family since the Roost was merely a pipe dream.

With over 20 years’ experience as a marketing consultant and a Masters in Business Administration, Sara certainly knows her stuff. But what makes her really stand out from the crowd is her belief that the strongest and most powerful brands are built through the people within a business. “Great brands” as she says, “are built from the inside, out.”

Sara’s really in tune with the way we work at Chatter, and over the years we’ve worked together with some ace clients including HSS, eSurv, Criteo and Well to deliver a whole range of different research and insight pieces. We’ve even won an award or two along the way!

With all that invaluable experience, we decided to get our heads together and develop Hume; a research tool designed to help businesses implement or to healthcheck their offering. Over the last year we tested a planning principle, transformed it into an engaging tool, and delivered a successful first session with the lovely folk at Well. Reflecting on the story so far, Sara says Hume has been “a real testament to our commitment to building an employer brand. It has so much potential and I’m really proud.”

We do love a “what if” question around the Perch on a lunchtime, so we asked Sara if she could only listen to, watch, read and own one thing for the rest of her life, what would it be? Here’s what she had to say…

“If I could only listen to one thing it would definitely have to be Prince’s Sign O’ the Times. I’ll never get tired of the Purple One, he takes me back to my misspent youth and never fails get me dancing.”

“I think I’d go a bit stir crazy only watching one thing over and over, but if I did it would be Memento. I’ve heard that if you watch it backwards the plot has a whole new meaning... I’d love to figure that one out!”

“If I could only read one thing it would be Alice in Wonderland. It’s timeless. I just love the combination of reality and fantasy, it never fails to deliver something new.”

“It feels so good to smell nice, so if I could only own one thing it would be a little bottle of my favourite perfume, Tom Ford Sahara Noir. It’s such a warm and cosy scent, I just can’t get enough of it at the moment!”

We can’t wait to see where our relationship takes us next, and judging by everything we’ve achieved together so far… The only way is up!

HSSness… what’s that?

Like us, HSS is a no-nonsense business with an unfussy approach...

Whether they’re running through a pitching process or floating on the LSE (which they’d done shortly before we began working with them); they call it HSSness and it makes for a great partnership. They also had a great story to tell, too, and Lisa and the rest of the team called on us to help them tell it.

What we discovered was that HSS is somewhere that you can really ‘make it’ - just like their customers who create it, build it, construct it, fix it, make it, etc, etc. So, 'make it' became our employer brand concept, and we created clear, simple and gaffer-tape-strong messages that could be easily tailored to particular roles. Our first project was a comprehensive careers website that included (amongst loads of other stuff) a suite of 24 videos that gives visitors real insight into every single hour of life at HSS – a true 24/7 business. The average visitor currently spends nearly 2 minutes on the site, helping to drive a fantastic 16.6% started application rate.

Since then we’ve launched their Employer Brand which picked up 'Best Employer Brand' at the RBAs, helped reshape their recruitment processes, and completed a few internal comms projects around reward and recognition, too.

We work hard at Chatter to build lasting relationships with our clients. And with Lisa C at HSS, we all hit it off instantly – which was pretty fortunate given than within a few months of working with each other, by sheer co-incidence our very own Lisa ended up at the same location, in the same hotel on the Amalfi Coast the summer after we met! Luckily the hubbies and the kids got on great. And we shared a fair few Aperol’s along the way.

We recently caught up with Lisa to find out a bit more about where her own HSSness comes from…

How did you get into the industry?

“I initially worked in finance, which will surprise some of my colleagues because I’m not great with numbers – before accidentally falling into HR!”

What would you do if you didn’t do this?

“When I was younger I wanted to work in PR – either that or be a paramedic.”

What’s the best piece of advice you've received in your career?

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions – it’s good to challenge the norm.”

What advice would you give someone starting out in the sector?

“For me, drive and commitment is really important. People don’t have to be perfect, but they should do the best job they can. So my advice would be to take hold of every opportunity and run with it to the best of your ability.”

What's the best thing about working with Chatter?

“The team are down to earth, approachable and fun, as well as really creative.”

What are you reading, watching and listening to at the moment?

“Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg, Silent Witness… I listen to all sorts of music, but love a bit of Frankie Valli.”

What’s your guilty pleasure?

“Peanut butter or chocolate…  it’s hard to choose just one!”

Three words to describe yourself?

“I’d say I’m passionate, driven and loyal.”

What fact would surprise most people about you?

“I’m a qualified scuba diver!”

News from the Roost

We’ve all got a wingful of projects to deliver at the moment and there’s a real buzz around the Roost.

Here’s what we’re all chitterchattering about right now…

On the road to the RADs…

We’re thrilled to be shortlisted for a RAD. It’s a good’un, too – we’re featuring in the Candidate Engagement category for our work on Stores of the Future with the guys at O2, alongside the likes of Dixons Carphone, Unilever and Thales. But what's just as exciting is that we've booked a table and are taking some of our clients along to the party - Global, Kantar, New Street, and of course O2. So to anyone who's also there tonight, apologies in advance!



Shedding a few feathers...

Following hamper after hamper of booze and chocolate in the run up to Christmas (and beyond), we’re hitting the homemade soups and protein shakes hard in the office this month. And with Charlotte signing up to boxing for Cancer Research, Saskia’s early morning spins, and Susanne preparing herself for the Filthy Girl weekend, it looks like the health kick is here to stay! Well, at least until the end of the month, when #whatsfortea at the RADs will inevitably be 8 pints of cider and a large doner with extra chilli sauce.



Introducing our boy, Jeff…  

We’ve been working round the clock here at Chatter and we’re proud to announce the launch of our very first recruitment chatbot. We’ve partnered with our lovely friends Sky Betting & Gaming to develop “Ask Jeff”; a chatbot with all the personality, charisma and panache of the real Jeff Stelling, the face of Sky Sports Soccer Saturday, Super 6 and Fantasy Football. He’s now alive and chomping at the bit to help candidates out in a flash with anything they want to know about Sky Betting & Gaming. He’s a helpful chap, and you can ask him anything you might need to know about applying for a job, preparing for an interview, who to contact, and even where you can grab lunch on your first day!

So, fancy a chat? You can find him at www.facebook.com/askjeffsbg.




The Premier League is back! But will it be a tale of two halves this season?

So after a busy festive period of Premier League fixtures and an FA Cup round, complete with two scorpion kick goals, the traditional Arsenal implosion and a John Terry red card to boot, the Premier League gets back underway this weekend with everyone on a level playing field having played 19 games. Chelsea sit comfortably at the top of the tree, still 5 points clear even in defeat to Spurs last week. 

Who would have thought it too after their distinctly wobbly start under Antonio Conte at the beginning of the season? But alas, of the last 6 teams to be top at Christmas, 5 have gone on to hoist the trophy in May. Liverpool being the only anomaly in 13-14 after “the slip” from monsieur Gerrard, and a timely Dwight Gale hat-trick sealed the title for Manchester City, for all of you wanting the answer to a surefire future pub quiz question.

The obvious mouthwatering tie of the weekend is Manchester United vs Liverpool on Sunday afternoon. United will be looking to continue their 9 game winning run in all competitions which stretches back to the 4th December. The streak has seen them safely into the Europa League knockout rounds, the FA Cup 4th round and to 6th in the league table. 

United beat a tame Hull 2-0 in their last outing in their EFL Cup Semi Final first leg, Liverpool on the other hand went down 0-1 to Southampton in the other Semi Final and could only scrape a 2-2 draw with Sunderland in their last league outing. United are the form team, but no doubt Liverpool will be eager to keep pace with Chelsea, who could be 8 points clear by the time the two sides kick-off on Sunday.

Speaking of Chelsea, the best of Saturday’s action could arguably come from the King Power stadium where Champions Leicester take on current leaders Chelsea. The tables have somewhat turned since last season, when Leicester were top and Chelsea found themselves in the bottom half still mourning the departure of Jose Mourinho. The Foxes lie in 15th this term after a hot and cold start to the season, and will be looking to jumpstart their season with a home win against a Chelsea side who will be looking to consolidate 1st place themselves. 

Time to talk about the Chatter league, the piece la resistance of Fantasy Football leagues worldwide. Much like Chelsea, our league leader Stuart Eynon of Telefonica has weathered the Christmas fixture pile up and is still sitting pretty atop the table. That said however, what looked like a one horse race at the start of the season now looks like your favorite pair of jeans post Christmas, a bit tight! Less than 100 points now separate the top 6 in the league, so it’s anyone’s game. 

Sky Betting & Gaming’s Matt Hughan is hot on Stuart’s tail in 2nd and was looking forward to the challenge when we spoke this week “Managing the team has been a great tactical battle all season. I’ll be pulling out all the stops to catch Stuart and I tell you what, I would love it if I beat him, LOVE IT!”.

Is there such a thing as the perfect work life balance…?

As I flop on the train after a really great day of listening to some really inspirational working mums speak about their careers at the Mumsnet Workfest16 conference, I keep wondering if there’s a perfect solution to finding a work life balance as a working mum.

I’ve been a mum for 9 years now and when I had my first baby I was so naïve. I took 20 weeks maternity leave and presumed that I’d skip back into full time work knowing my baby was happy at the wonderful nursery I’d picked out for her. Within a few months, I’d realised the error of my ways and negotiated a 4 day week, and that worked out more or less ok for the following 8 and a bit years. But a couple of months ago, with the prospect of my youngest starting full time school in September, I decided to go back to full time. Which is great for me (and hopefully my colleagues!) Work is more fulfilling. I don’t feel like I’m wasting my childfree time and the full time salary doesn’t go amiss either.

But managing the juggling act between working hours and childcare is a challenge, which I think all working parents identify with, and there’s a huge opportunity for employers to embrace the opportunity to rip up the rule book when it comes to thinking flexibly.

One of the big takeaway comments from the conference was that parents need to appreciate that flexibility is a two-way partnership, not a chance to dictate your working patterns. And having an employer who’s prepared to be flexible makes all the difference to retaining bright, intelligent women* in the workplace through the mummy years. Meaning that when those same women are ready to step back up a gear, once parental responsibilities are less demanding, they’re still up to speed with their role and the industry instead of having to build their career up from a junior level whilst male counterparts have been flying high. Making for a more well-rounded, diverse and experienced workforce. Which surely has to be a good thing for everyone, right?

I’m lucky, Chatter are fabulously flexible and understand the juggling act I go through as a full time working mum. We have an informal understanding that I’ll work flat out and be as flexible as I can when the business and our clients need me to - even if that’s on an evening or from home. But if I have to get to the office late or leave early because of childcare limitations, or take a huge chunk annual leave in the school holidays, or dash off in the middle of the day because school rings to say one of my kids is sick. That’s ok too.

At the conference there were some really great panelists. Well known working mums who have these huge high-flying careers and raise a family too. And women who have negotiated amazing flexible working arrangements for board level positions. So how do they do it? Here are their top tips:

  1. Take your kids to work! Jo Whiley, had her first baby 24 years ago when “flexible working” didn’t really exist and taking her kids to work with her didn’t stop her doing a great job on shows like 'The Word', yet it’s probably still one of the biggest work no nos. Clearly toddlers running around the workplace is totally impractical, but the odd day in the school holidays where your 7/8/9/10 year old brings in a bit of homework or their iPad and chills out quietly in the office while mum cracks on, could relieve the school holiday annual leave bottle neck and keep businesses more productive year round.
  2. Marry a super-husband! Jess Phillips MP had a baby at 22 and spent 11 years developing an enviable career culminating in her election to Labour MP and being in a position where she can do great things. Her kids are thriving and happy with her husband as primary carer and it seems to work well for them as a family. Clearly this is more about who your partner is than who your employer is but employers can help by encouraging parents of both sexes to request flexible working and not just mum.
  3. Be upfront and honest with your colleagues and clients and have a great support network. Karen Blackett OBE is Chairperson of Mediacom UK as well as being mum to a little boy. Karen’s approach has been to make sure she has a great support network that includes neighbours and family as well as a nanny. She’s also a big advocate of being upfront and honest with her colleagues and clients that she is a mum and sometimes he will have to come first but that she won’t let them down when it comes to the crunch.
  4. Find a job share buddy. Claire Walker, Director of Communications at Teach First has job shared with Hannah Essex at 2 organisations. They’re equal partners who trust each other implicitly to do their job to their standard when they’re not there and between them they both have a 3 day week and 2 days off with their kids where they can completely switch off knowing the job is in safe hands.  
  5. Be flexibly flexible! Emma Graham, Corporate Business Lead at IPGIT, works a 3-day week but has the flexibility to ramp up to 4 or 5 days as her workload demands. This does rely on having the support network to step in around your (probably not at all flexible) childcare arrangements, but could give the best of both worlds. Time with your kids when work is quieter and time to focus on work when you’re working on big projects.
  6. Make flexible working a reality for everyone. I attended the Mumsnet conference with our lovely client O2. They offer a whole host of flexible working arrangements that are open to mostcolleagues regardless of whether they’re parents or not. Everyone needs a good work life balance and offering flexibility to all employees put everyone on an equal footing.

So as I sit here watching the countryside fly by, as I race to get home to my kids for an hour of much needed cuddles before bedtime, I think there are so many opportunities to “have it all” if you and your employer can be open and think a bit creatively to find a solution that works for all. It will never be perfect. You’ll always feel that you’re not giving quite enough, either to your job or your family, but working mums of today are one hell of a lot luckier than our mums and grandmas when it comes to having a great career without missing out on the joys of parenthood.


*Because whilst times are changing, and there are loads of fantastically hands on dads out there, let’s face it, there are still a lot more mums than dads who take a step back career-wise while the kids are small 

Onboarding, analytics and pain au chocolat

A crisp, cold Monday afternoon in November saw me boarding a flight from Leeds to Paris for a few days. The first two of which I spent at the HR Technology World Congress just off the Champs Elysee… (and yes, this blog post has languished half written ever since!)

HRTechWorld is a large conference and expo, hosted at the Palais de Congres and jam packed with technology suppliers of all shapes and sizes showing their wares, some great speakers and workshop sessions and over 3500 delegates who were mainly HR professionals with recruiting, talent management and IT responsibilities. What follows are just a few of the things I picked up, general themes and some highlights of the speaker sessions I managed to catch.

Day 1 kicked off in typically French style, 15 minutes behind schedule and with a coffee and a croissant in hand. First up on stage was Yves Morieux from the Boston Consulting Group with a presentation style that was likened to a football manager giving a half time pep talk. He made some interesting points around productivity and engagement, and the importance of simplifying rather than just automating complexity.

Having seen several technology implementations in the past which took an already broken system and automated it, I could see his point! He also made a compelling case for the power of co-operation and teamwork, even though it’s often a little indefinable and hard to measure, its the secret sauce that pulls everything else together.

Next up, on the second stage was John Vlastelica, who was talking about the importance of engaged hiring managers and how much they can bring to the process when they’re treated as a partner rather than a client of the the HR team. He cited some really interesting examples from companies like Yahoo who’d made the hiring managers really visible in the process and found that the authentic conversations they could have with candidates about the role yielded far better results.

If that was the carrot, then the stick was making recruiting priorities part of hiring managers performance reviews, and rewarding managers based on their engagement with direct sourcing.

Later in the day I caught an interesting session from Booking.com talking about their rapid growth and how they’d structured their recruiting team along the same lines as a sales function, looking at recruitment as another sales channel. It was great to see that they were using a whole array of different tools together rather than pinning everything on one monolithic system, and constantly testing and improving what they do even down to the level of doing A/B testing of different job titles to see which yielded more (or better) applications, something we’ve tried with one of our clients too.

Looking at the general themes and trends of the conference, engagement with technology rather than just passively implementing seemed high on the agenda, with adoption and rollout being actively considered as important. Applying what we’d often term “landing the brand” in a technology context.

And talent analytics was being mentioned everywhere, although if I was being uncharitable then it might seem like one or two of the shall we say, “less cutting edge” applicant tracking systems, have dialled up the marketing of their analytics and reporting features to compensate for their other shortcomings.

In a lull between sessions, I caught the end of a presentation from a technology called WiPro who are working on a video assessment solution that watches the video stream of the candidate as they take a test and can detect their responses, if they leave the room and even if they have a friend looking over their shoulder helping them. It didn’t feel quite ready for widespread adoption, but it was an interesting advance!

One of the more interesting presentations I saw was from Anne Jaake, the HR director at dutch lingerie company Hunkemoller. It was clear from the off that they have a very strong picture of the kind of people they want to recruit, their customer base and their values. Which informs everything they do. They’ve also used video really strongly throughout their entire recruitment process from the careers site, right through to the regret email received by unsuccessful candidates. A simple touch, but really effective and it was clear that their approach was helping to create brand ambassadors at every stage of the process. When so many candidates are also customers, it makes perfect sense to keep them on side and turn them into fans.

The big keynote speaker of the conference was Richard Branson, and the excitement from a lot of the crowd at being in the same room as the man himself was palpable. Though it quickly turned I think to boredom, at the end of a long day with an audience of HR professionals the interviewer pitched him a succession of softball questions mostly based on his autobiography, which led to answers about his charitable initiatives and activities outside the core Virgin businesses. This was an audience hungry to learn how HR is done in a truly innovative business like Virgin, which unfortunately wasn’t really delivered.

Day 2 started with an interesting quote from Jason Averbrook, talking about implementation of HR technology, “We shape our tools and then our tools shape us”, how many times have we seen businesses where the entire recruitment process is engineered around the shortcomings of legacy software!

This was followed up by a presentation by Ferrero on how they survived a 60% cut to their recruitment budget, largely by pitching in and creating their own ad-hoc social strategy in house using a range of tools. The old silicon valley maxim of “fail fast, fail often” was definitely in evidence with them trying lots of different approaches and then fine tuning and sticking with the ones that worked. Often we see clients taking risks when budget isn’t an issue, so it was nice to see that approach at the other end of the scale too.

The rest of the day went by in a blur of presentations, visits to various software companies around the expo (several of which we’ve already started to think about using at Chatter with our clients) and a presentation about candidate experience talked about how so many careers sites are all about driving volume applications whether they have any hope of being successful or not. Or as they put it, “Why do we invite so many people to the party and then slam the door in their face."

The day ended with a panel discussion and then as quickly as it had started the event was over, with attendees making their way home across Europe and beyond…except for me…i’d booked the rest of the week off as holiday! Salut!

Hiring apprentices and why it’s good for business…

Charlie Reeve, a leading expert in early careers recruitment and director at Gradconsult continues our series of blogs to mark National Apprenticeship Week...

I’ve hired over 400 apprentices over the last 10 years, mostly to fulfil one business need. Many businesses today in the UK are facing an unprecedented problem – they have a top-heavy work force of ageing employees who will retire in the next 10 years. The numbers simply don’t stack up. For example, in a transport business I worked for, the operational engineering team in one region was comprised mostly of 55 year olds. It is easy to see the ticking time bomb this business was facing.

And it's particularly problematic for businesses that need technical expertise, hence the traditional apprenticeship focus on engineering and trade skills. As we move forward into the digital era, the need to expand apprenticeship provision is vital for our future success as a country. You can see how much this problem means to the UK government by the slew of recent warnings on future retirement age and reductions in state pension provisions.

Another important reason why companies like apprentices is because they provide what is termed a “talent push”. The employee workforce is encouraged by business leaders to continually improve, and they're looking for ways to pull their talent upwards. Used as a mechanism on its own has limited effectiveness. Many apprentices provide a talent push, introducing fresh ideas, a willingness to learn and in general are more adaptable to change than the more established, longer serving employees. When combined with the talent pull effect, this drives productivity faster than usual. 

Apprentices are vital to many businesses – but as with any development or skills programme, there is a wide variety in the quality of the experiences provided by businesses. The new Apprenticeship Levy will put pressure on employers to demand quality education alongside providing a quality apprenticeship experience. 

What’s it like to hire and train an Apprentice?

It’s National Apprenticeships Week between the 14th and 18th of March so we’re publishing a series of blogs exploring the world of Apprenticeships from a few different perspectives. Last week, Chatter Apprentice Saskia kicked us off with a view from the sharp end. Why the Apprenticeship route was right for her and how things have panned out so far. 

This week it’s Paul’s turn, one of the Partners here at Chatter: 

Since we launched Chatter almost five years ago, we’ve been busy building an agency that “walks the talk” when it comes to developing our own talent. Early careers has always been a vital part of that plan. The three owners have taken a variety of career routes, a mixture of Graduate, YTS and lots of work experience too. We know that building great teams is about people from different backgrounds and types of experiences working together. 

And just like other agencies, we feel we have a responsibility to train, develop and nurture talent for the future. We know they won’t stay with us forever, even though we’d love it if they did, but whilst they are here, we can help them build a solid foundation of knowledge and expertise to set them up for a great career in the industry. Our benefit is having a team of people who can adapt to the Chatter way of doing things, making sure our clients are taken care of to a standard we’re happy with.  

Until last year, our early careers Chatterinos had all been Graduates from the University of Leeds, our first Graduate Harry, has just celebrated his 3rd anniversary with us. All three have invested their heart and soul into the business, and each of them have brought a fresh perspective that’s helped us expand our capability and expertise as an agency. 

Over the past 12 months, we’ve been working on our vision for the future. Growing our team is a major focus. And having scoped a trainee marketing role, combined with some client service support, we knew it was an opportunity to bring in an Apprentice. 

The Trainees we met as part of the selection process were all really enthusiastic, well researched and eager for the role. We’d have loved to have offered them all, but in the end we selected Saskia. She joined us before Christmas and has taken to life at Chatter like a duck to water. She’s already a key member of the team, a real worker bee with an eye for detail and a commitment to getting things done. 

Whilst we don’t have a formal training programme in place, we’ve worked with Saskia, the team here and the training provider to outline a role that helps her gain the most relevant experience to her course, build her skill set and get involved with a variety of different projects. So far it’s been a really positive experience, so much so, that we’re about to start recruiting for a second Apprentice to work alongside our designer.

It’s important that all businesses share the responsibility for developing the talent their industry will need in the future. Taking some time to think about the opportunities you have to offer and how you’ll support your Trainees is really important. And whilst it’ll take longer to train your own talent, in the long run you’ll have a team of people who are more committed, more expert and totally bought in to your business. 

What it’s like being an apprentice at Chatter…







From leaving college in June 2015 with 3 A Levels in Art, Photography and Sociology, I knew that I wanted to begin my career within the digital marketing industry through an apprenticeship scheme. Whilst going to Uni was an option, I knew how competitive Marketing can be so gaining as much work experience as possible would be really important. The other benefit was earning a salary whilst learning.  

Almost as soon as I graduated from college, I contacted QA, one of the training companies specialising in Apprenticeships, who ran a digital marketing course that looked interesting. They organised a telephone interview which lasted about half an hour. During the interview they asked me a series of questions regarding why I had selected this particular course, the type of skills and experience I had and how that could be applied to the workplace. They were really friendly and supportive which really put me at ease.

Once I was registered, they kept me informed about the new roles available in the area. I was lucky to secure an offer from the very first interview I went to, a software agency close to where I live. I was employed to look after their own social marketing channels including designing some of the content. Not long after joining I realised it wasn’t the apprenticeship for me, so I chatted to the guys a QA who continued to be supportive and helped me to look for other opportunities.

Whilst the first role was a bit of a false start, it really helped me think about the specific type of place I wanted to work, and the sort of role that would really suit me. So by the time I met the guys at Chatter, I knew I wanted to work somewhere exactly like this.

During the interview process here, my nerves instantly disappeared and the interview felt more like a chat rather than anything intimidating. One of the many reasons why I wanted the opportunity to work with Chatter was the working environment. Anyone who has had the chance to visit The Roost will agree that it’s not your typical office. Every aspect is fun and sociable and a brilliant place to work. So when I got the phone call from QA to say I was successful in my interview, I was so excited.

The ability to get involved and learn new skills everyday will be a huge benefit towards my qualification and the in-house training at QA Leeds City Centre, where I will be kick-starting my Digital Marketing course this month.

My top tips for other people considering the apprenticeship route would be:

  • Don’t always go with the first offer, explore what’s out there and make a choice based on what you discover
  • Make sure you research the companies you interview with
  • Go for it!

Three months in…

Hey! I’m Saskia, the new (and first) apprentice to join the team! I joined Chatter in November 2015 as a Trainee Account Executive. I recently graduated from college successfully completing my A Levels and I decided that an apprenticeship would be the perfect path for me!

By undertaking this apprenticeship programme and achieving my desired qualification, it’ll give me fantastic experience in the world of work. The ability to be hands-on will give me a great chance to put my skills to practice and it’ll also help me to gain more confidence in the Chatter working environment.

I‘m not your typical Yorkshire Lass, as I moved ‘up North’ 11 years ago from Surrey. Whilst living in Yorkshire, I‘ve enjoyed the best years of my life at school & college, making great friends and memories.

When I arrived at the Roost on my first day, the team made me feel very welcome and the whole atmosphere was positive and optimistic. From accepting the role with Chatter, I understood that I would be learning a completely new concept but with the help from all of the guys at Chatter, I’m confident that I’ll be learning from the best (and Paul)! Now, I’ve been with Chatter for 3 months and I feel as though I’ve learnt a great deal already and settled in as part of the team.

I’m looking forward to my future at Chatter, with the Chatter family! 

My week with Chatter


My name is Kaitlin I am in my final year in Year 11 at Outwood Grange Academy. I was able to get a great opportunity to spend a week with the team at Chatter to gain some experience. After worrying about what I wanted to do when I was older I thought it would give me an idea of what career I wanted to do. The first day I started I was so scared and nervous about coming but once I met the team I was put at ease. By spending just 5 days at Chatter I have learned so much about the company and who they work with.

HSS meeting

I was really lucky to get invited to go to HSS with Tom, Lisa and Lucy. It was very interesting for me to sit in and listen to about how HSS can improve their recruitment processes. There were times when I wasn’t even sure what was being talked about but it was great to be able to listen to conversations and learn from them. To be very honest with you I was really interested with the first bit of the meeting about social media, but towards the end of the meeting I drifted off. Which was 6 HOURS LONG!!

The office

The office is not what I expected it to be - a normal office is boring and silent. But this office wasn’t - they had a good taste of music playing out and it was so relaxed. Everyone is always friendly, joyful and always making me laughs even though I was tired.


Tom looked after me when I was at Chatter always giving me jobs to do so I wasn’t bored. Also he gives good advice when you need help with something.


Harry is really funny and always manages to make me laugh.


Saskia is really friendly and is always smiling.


Lisa is also funny. I already knew Lisa (we'd accidently been on holiday together!) so I was less worried when she walked in because I was able to talk to her.

The other members of the team are really lovely and welcoming and was there for me if I needed them.

I've had a great week and learnt a lot from the team at Chatter. I'm leaving more confident than I was before.

Great People, Great Brand

Why is it that we feel real affinity to some brands and not others? 

Why do some covet Apple technology, others remain staunchly Android?  Some seek out Starbucks, others covet Costa?

Essentially it’s because brands are built around collections of rational and emotional triggers that ping our psychology, consciousness and memory in different ways.  As individuals, we are pre-programmed to connect and fit with some brands and not others.  The same is true of employer brands.

Essentially the process for building a brand and for building a solid people promise is reasonably similar.  You need to understand your audience. Figure out their rational and emotional drivers in order to engage, build a relationship and foster loyalty.  You need to understand your competition, what they offer and set out your own stall in order to capitalise on key points of difference.  And you need to get hold of the very ‘essence’ of what makes your brand unique and special in order to stand a chance of forging powerful connections with the people you touch. 

It isn’t simple.  Otherwise every business would be doing it, every brand would be super-successful and all organisations would have an outstanding people promise and a queue of interested candidates clamouring to take seats from employees who simply wouldn’t want to leave.  But it isn’t rocket science either. A robust process and a commitment to research and insights will certainly set you on the right path whether your focus is in Marketing or HR.

But the challenges of building a brand and building a stand-out people promise are not identical.  A one-size-fits-all approach simply doesn’t work. 

Here’s the critical difference  

Although EVP (or people promise) prompts a buying decision, just like a brand promise, the size of the decision is so much bigger – for buyer and seller - in the world of work.

The decision to take a job with a company has profound implications for the individual in question.  It’s no throw-away purchase.  It involves a commitment of time and a complicated set of long-term emotional transactions that are profoundly linked to the individual’s sense of self. 

There are significant implications for the employer too.  When an individual accepts a job, they effectively become part of the product.  Which means that the values and cultural fit of the person in question ultimately have a bearing on business and brand performance. 

Where consumer branding often hinges of volume of sales, when it comes to employer branding, quality rather than quantity is paramount.

The organisation has to attract the right kind of talent, with the right kind of qualities to make the right kind of contribution.  And because organisation culture isn’t static , the ideal employee profile may prove to be an important lever in orchestrating organisational change.  

So what can HR practitioners learn from their Marketing counterparts? 

Robust research and insight are the keys to unlocking a powerful ‘essence’ that can provide clarity, consistency and cohesion to all communications.  HR colleagues should take time to understand the thinking behind the customer-facing brand – after all employees MUST buy-in to the brand values if the business is going to function successfully.

And what can Marketing learn from HR? 

A well-constructed EVP can and will provide a solid foundation and platform for a fantastic customer-facing brand.  The ‘essence’ of a good experience at work is not the same as the ‘essence’ of product, but if both disciplines respect the other’s remit as well as reinforcing and supporting each other’s goals, any business can secure the people who will underpin their brand.  People who are in-tune with customers and culture, understand their purpose and feel inspired and empowered to make a difference in their jobs.

On the 6th day of Christmas, Chatter gave to me…

On the sixth day of Christmas, Chatter decided to show that we do occasionally do work for real clients, and don’t spend all our time at parties or making Christmas cards. And it may be a slightly tenuous connection, but we recently started working with the team at Sky Betting and Gaming on a recruitment campaign, including 6 sheets!

As well as having a recruitment need for software engineers in the competitive Leeds and Sheffield markets, Sky Betting and Gaming broke away from ‘Big Sky’ earlier in the year. So this would be the first time they publicised themselves anywhere as anything other than their corporate brands (like SkyBet, SkyVegas, or SkyBingo). 

Taking out a message that reflects Sky Betting and Gaming status as an agile, challenger brand, despite the big name, we took to the train stations, streets and news-sheets of Leeds and Sheffield. And once people knew SBG were recruiting, we had to send them somewhere to find out more. So we created a simple microsite where we could direct people to (skybetcareers.com), while in the meantime, we’re working behind the scenes on an even more exciting, more in depth careers site for them.

Here’s some of our handiwork...

That feeling when…

...you walk into the office and you had Aguero as your fantasy football team captain.

Week 8 of the Battle in the Roost is done and dusted, and with an weekend of international football on the horizon (yawn) we thought it was a good chance to take stock and see how everyones getting on.

It was a crazy week, with O2’s Dan Pollinger scoring 110 points - quite frankly, that’s ‘unbelievable Jeff’ -. That’s what happens when you have Aguero and Sanchez in your team, and benefit from drubbing Newcastle and Man U respectively. 

Having been hanging around mid table all season, Dan has leaped to the top of the table - but can he hold to the lead for the rest of the season? Or will FirstGroup’s Mike Baker and fellow O2’er Stuart Eynon close the lead over the next few weeks?

Early season leader Ian Howarth is looking more like Chelsea than his favoured Red Devils - languishing near the foot of the table after getting out to a stormer. I guess that’s karma for having a team made up of Man City and Liverpool players!

Propping up the table is GradConsult’s Charlie Reeve. We think Charlie is emulating the feats of his fellow north-easterners, Newcastle and Sunderland, by playing lackluster, uninspiring football. Sunderland got rid of their manager this weekend, but the question has to be will Charlie make wholesale changes to his team, or will Light Bulb Moments be looking for a new manager once the international break is over?

To keep up-to-date on all the fantasy football updates, as well as regular reports on the true team of Chatter, Hepworth U12’s, follow us on Facebook.

5 Things I Learnt in 5 Days at Chatter

Hello! I’m Sophie, going into my final year at Loughborough University in a few weeks. I was lucky enough to spend a week with the Chatter team in Leeds this summer to gain some experience.

After taking a placement year as part of my degree I thought I’d have more of an idea about what career I want to pursue but really I think I was more confused and unsure than before.

I’ve always had an interest in marketing so I thought why not ask Lisa if I could spend some time at the Roost to get more of an understanding of their world and employer branding and recruitment marketing. So I headed up to Yorkshire to spend some time with the Chatter team and here’s the top 5 things I learnt during my week.

There's a fun & unique culture

It’s more like a family; everyone is always friendly, welcoming, helpful and always a laugh around the office. Being invited on the team night out was great to chat to everyone outside the office and nice to be treated like part of the team.

They've got fab music taste around the office

When you think of an office you imagine just the usual Radio 1 playing all day as background music. Not here! Music from a range of decades played with everyone loving a good old sing a long.

There's loads of experience to learn from

The best thing about being an intern is you’re not expected to know everything so there were times when I wasn’t even sure what was being talked about but it was great to be able to listen to conversations and learn from them. Everyone in the team is always willing to help and it’s great to learn from their experience.

Tom gives good advice

Tom was always there to help and explain things, he gives good advice as well as being a great laugh. Harry and Tom were always fun to be around in the office. (Alfie was off most of the time I was there so I’m not leaving him out I promise.

There's a variety of projects everyone contributes to

I knew Chatter and what they did before joining from having worked with them throughout my placement year, however I didn’t know how much variety there was in their projects and across the different accounts. It was great to get a real insight into the many things that go on inside the Roost and difference in accounts.

I’ve had a great week and learnt a lot from everyone at Chatter, I wouldn’t hesitate to ask to join them again.  It’s a much different experience from the corporate environment I previously worked in but it’s been great to experience both sides of it. 

How to configure your ATS – the way you want it

Our friends at Hireserve share some thoughts on how to approach implementing and configuring a new Applicant Tracking System:

When you enter the implementation phase of your ATS, you can suddenly feel as though those around you are speaking in another language. Abbreviations abound, your supplier spouts technical jargon with the ease of ABC and you’re bombarded with multiple configuration options.

Often, the result is that you’ll lean heavily on your supplier to guide you through the implementation process – and this can mean that you won’t always get exactly what you need from the system. So how else could you approach the implementation of your ATS? And what should you expect from your supplier?

Scope out your implementation consultant

Your implementation consultant is going to be key to your configuration experience. Whether they’re a member of your ATS supplier’s team, independent or provided by your RPO, it’s essential they have a thorough knowledge of the system. A comprehensive understanding of all its features and how these will address your specific needs is vital.

Seek someone who'll take a consultative approach. They should work to understand your end-to-end recruitment process in order to confidently advise where the ATS could add value at each stage, and ultimately produce a tailored implementation plan that directly addresses your needs.

This can make the difference between a truly bespoke solution and a ‘one size fits all’ approach to your ATS project.

Work through the process together

Once your implementation plan has been agreed, your implementation consultant should work through all of the configuration options available to you and outline the potential advantages and disadvantages of each.

In doing this, they should be equipping you with enough knowledge for you to decide what will work best for your organisation. It would also be sensible to discuss, if you haven’t already, your ATS supplier’s approach to bespoke requests and flexibility when asked to reconfigure or create a new piece of functionality.

Taking a collaborative approach will ensure you can take the lead in terms of deciding what configuration options you want, rather than relying on your implementation consultant’s decisions.

Adopt an assisted build approach

Whilst this may be dependent on timescales, an assisted build can prove very effective. Essentially you are involved in the configuration of the system, as opposed to the implementation consultant undertaking the work before handing the system back over to you.

Taking this hands-on approach will enhance your confidence when administering the system so that subsequent training will be much more effective as you'll already have a working knowledge of the system and be more familiar with the build.

Although this approach takes a little more time on your part, training sessions will be less lengthy and should enable you to start using the system from a more knowledgeable, confident position.

Be clear on what you need from your system

Ultimately, the successful configuration of your ATS is going to be based heavily on your unique requirements and how your implementation consultant responds to these.

An over-reliance on the opinion of your ATS supplier could result in you not getting the best out of your system, or needing to reconfigure functionality a few months down the line.

Instead, push for a consultative approach from your implementation consultant, seek a tailored implementation plan and try to be as involved in the build and configuration process as possible.

We can’t promise your implementation process is going to be jargon-free…but we hope this guidance helps you to have a collaborative experience, tailored to you.

About Hireserve

Established in 1997, Hireserve creates leading recruitment software.  Trusted by organisations across the UK and Europe, including CERN, Arriva and Cranfield University, Hireserve’s ATS is agile, intuitive and powerful.

To find out more, contact the Hireserve team on +44 (0)844 324 5027 or drop them a note at info@hireserve.com.

The changing tide in Graduate attraction

On Monday, The Independent reported that EY (Ernst and Young), one of the UK’s biggest graduate recruiters are to scrap their entry requirement for applicants to have a 2:1 classification.

Instead, they’ll use assessment tools to measure potential, selecting the best candidates for their business, regardless of the degree level achieved.

So why are they doing this?

It’s no secret the number of graduates achieving a 2:1 or above in British universities has surged over the past few years. In fact, well over 2/3rds of grads walk away with at least a 2:1, which makes the job of identifying top talent more challenging than it used to be. 

But there’s more to it than that. Research by social mobility charity the Sutton Trust, reports that by the age of 5, children from poorer backgrounds are likely to be an average of 19 months behind their wealthier equivalents in academic terms. And that children from affluent neighborhoods are 9 times more likely to get into one of the top 13 uni’s in the UK. And the trend doesn’t end there. The BBC reports that three years after graduation, those who attended fee-paying schools, earn around £4,500 a year more than their state school counterparts.

So, A-Level grades and the university a candidate attends, is no longer an equitable way to assess talent and potential. In fact, data collected by charities like the Sutton Trust, indicate that assessing against those indicators alone, is simply an exercise in selecting employees based on how affluent their background has been, and therefore missing out on a boat-load of the most talented individuals in the market.

So how can employers tap into this vein of talent?

  • Switching up the mix of higher eduction institutions (HEIs) they work with is a good start. Considering how to use the masses of data HEIs produce these days, and how it can help target by things like ‘Value Added’ scores, alongside the more traditional metrics will help broaden the number of undergrads your scheme can reach.
  • Working with charities like the Sutton Trust to develop initiatives to attract and recruit a more diverse range of grads onto your scheme, is also a good idea. Things like paid internships, work experience and networking events will help undergrads from less affluent backgrounds level the playing field. 
  • Review your recruitment and assessment processes to identify whether there are any unintentional barriers to entry. And consider how much value some of the traditional assessment metrics really add to your business.

And if you really want to do something exciting, why not give us a call at the Roost to find out how we can help? 

Everything RI5 didn’t want you to know…

It's been the biggest scandal in HR comms so far today. Ri5 forgot to include us in their Agency Round up feature. Here's everything they didn't tell you!

A new egg:

We've welcomed another new Chatterino recently, Susanne our new Designer. We already love her not just because she's a brilliant designer but also because she's always first in and gets the first brew of the day on. She dances to our rubbish playlists on Spotify and when she's not brew-making and designing, she also fences competitively - how cool is that.

New clients:

We've helped the AGR to design, build and launch their new learning and development portal AGR Professional. We've loved collaborating with them on this and were at the conference at the end of June to press the flesh and make sure everything went smoothly.

We've also been working with City and Guilds, helping them to develop a new careers site which is due for launch any day. A simple, fresh new look for one of the most respected and recognised learning brands in the world.

A jolly for Christmas:

And finally, the Chatterinos whittled down the destination options for this year's Chatter Christmas do following Dragons Den style pitches - it was between Amsterdam and Copenhagan. Copenhagan won through with the final decision made by the man with his hand firmly on the Chatter purse strings, the one and only Jon Davies. Any inside info on all the hotspots not to be missed would be gratefully received.

Glassdoor - The TripAdvisor for HR

Here at Chatter, we’ve been banging on about the importance of your employer reputation for the last 4 years, so why do we think it’s so important? Glassdoor and other sites like it are a great example of why having a great reputation is critically important to the future success of your business.

Think about it - how many of us buy anything these days without checking out a review site or two? A holiday or a restaurant? TripAdvisor; a great book to keep you occupied whilst you’re kicking back on the beach? Amazon. So it’s hardly surprising that candidates want to get the inside track on you as a potential new employer before they take the plunge.

Via Glassdoor, employees past and present, are busy writing honest assessments about businesses they’ve worked for, and the people who manage it. Scary isn’t it?

Since launching in 2008, they’ve seen huge growth. They now have over 22 million members worldwide - that’s the equivalent of the entire population of Taiwan. 5.7 million reviews on nearly 300,000 companies in 190 countries and a shed load of innovation awards!

Your company is being publicly pitched against others and rated for things like work environment, employee benefits, pension plans, diversity initiatives, recruitment process and employee training programs. It’s having a big impact on how successfully you can attract and recruit the best talent to join your teams.  

So how do you respond?

Listen to what’s been said

It makes good sense to monitor your Glassdoor profile. Weed the constructive criticism out from any general whinging and identify common trends and themes.

Actions speak louder than words

As an employer, you do have a right to respond and sometimes it’s good to do just that. Nip it in the bud so to speak. But think before you act, try not to seem defensive.

The key to your success will be how you use the reviews to improve the experience your employees have of you. It might not be comfortable to have your dirty washing aired in public, but it’s valuable insight. Consult with your own people, dig a bit deeper into the issues and think about the small improvements you can make right now, and the bigger projects you can kick off later.

Embrace it

Social media channels are here to stay. Get the housekeeping right within your business and you’ve everything to gain. Encourage your own people to engage with it so there’s a spread of opinion - from those who stay as well as those who move on.

And keep listening, learning and improving.

Drop us a line if you want to know how we can help.

Who’s calling the shots on your brand?

Now, brands can be tricky things, but you should basically think of them as the promise you make to your customers. A way to help manage their expectations about what they’re about to buy. The fact I can shop at both Waitrose and Aldi and leave each store perfectly happy, despite having a totally different experience, is precisely because their brand and reputation has successfully helped manage my expectations.
So what makes the difference between one brand experience and another? Very often it’s your people. Let’s face it, you might have the very best business strategy going, but if you don’t include and involve your people, you may as well not bother at all.  Unless they’re able to deliver your brand promise, your customers won’t get what they’re expecting and you’re probably in for a rough ride.
So what’s your role in all this? Simple. Beyond making sure you have a sound strategy in place and that everyone in the business understands it, you need to be listening to and acting on their feedback. Afterall they’re more likely to help solve the challenges you’re grappling with than any management consultant could, because it’s so often the small everyday details that can make the biggest difference.
A recent trip with a leading airline really brought this into focus for me. I chose them because they flew out of my local airport – convenient; I was after a bit of luxury - premium brand, and wanted it to be a hassle free holiday.
Once on the plane I was treated to exactly what I’d bought into - a first class service. It was professional, friendly and it ran like clock work. Nothing was too much trouble. The cabin crew were that good, I happily overlooked the ailing state of their aircraft, the pitiful inflight entertainment and the fact they ran out of food options halfway up the cabin! In a word, it was fab; and even from my cattle class seat, I felt like a king. So how come they failed to deliver on their brand promise?
Well it’s because every other aspect of the experience was dire - from the booking system, to the call centre team, ground staff to check in agents. Don’t get me wrong, everyone I came into contact with was polite and courteous, for example, they persistently smiled and referred to me as “sir” as they explained why my problem was exactly that.
It was a classic example of a business out of touch with their people and their customers. Their back of house systems were clearly lashed together with gaffer tape which made everything feel a bit over complicated and troublesome. Nothing made any sense to me as their customer, and so the poor guys at the sharp end of delivering the brand experience were being left to fight the daily battles whilst presumably their generals were in retreat smoking cigars and drinking Brandy - a safe distance from the action.
All the people I met were doing their very best to deliver a convenient, premium and hassle-customer experience, but things behind the scenes were so badly broken that in the end, all they could do was to listen sympathetically and remember to call me Sir.
Whatever your brand is all about, logos, ads and promotions are all pretty pointless investments if you don’t support your people to deliver what you have promised.
So whatever your plans look like, remember to look after your people, they’ll look after your customers and your customers will look after your business. 

Serial - the podcast phenomenon

You may have heard the buzz about a podcast called ‘Serial’. It’s being talked about on Newsnight, in the Guardian, the New York Times and on Buzzfeed. Already it’s a cult classic, and despite only having put out 9 episodes so far is top of the iTunes download chart, with over a million people listening worldwide. It centres around the conviction of Adnan Syed, the man arrested, tried and convicted for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. It’s pretty much single-handedly leading to a resurgence of interest in podcasts.

As a medium, they’re are a great way of telling a story. Someone subscribes to the podcast channel, and every time a new episode is released it automatically pops up in their download folder, or, as is happening more often, on their phone. Podcasts mean people can listen to radio on demand - in the same way BBC iPlayer and Netflix have changed how people watch TV.

If you’re thinking about doing a podcast, there are a few things to bear in mind. Have you got an easy way to reach your audience? ‘Serial’ is a spin off of the uber-successful ‘This American Life’ podcast, so instantly had listeners. Do you have a big enough following on social media or the channels internally to create an audience? 

And do you have a story to tell? A one-off podcast will never really be that effective. But they’re great if you’ve got plenty to shout about - success stories, interviews with business or thought leaders, sharing expertise or advice on how to be successful at different stages of application. In the same way you’d do with any content planning, come up with a schedule for the next few months and plot out what stories you could put out.

Whatever story you choose to tell, podcasts can be a great way to give people a more in depth and personal look at your organisation, culture and people. 

Life as an agency in Yorkshire…

Here at Chatter, we’re Yorkshire, and proud of it. The Drum recently spoke to a few people from across Yorkshire about the agency scene here. And, also having an opinion or two, we thought we’d add a our tuppence about being a people communications agency in God’s Own County.

The panel were all right when they say that the digital scene in particular is thriving, particularly in Leeds. But there are now less than a handful of agencies specialising in recruitment or HR communications based here, and that can often leave us feeling a bit isolated. We think the agencies that are here need to be less afraid of communicating with each other, ourselves included!

And just because we’re not in London doesn’t mean we don’t work with some really talented people. Our Flock - copywriters, art directors, developers, illustrators, photographers - are spread not just through Yorkshire. In a way that even a few years back wasn’t possible, we’re able to work and communicate with them. The whole of the North has a wealth of talent, and produces some really great work. Some of it, dare we say it, comes from Lancashire. 

Our location doesn’t seem to bother our clients who appreciate that we’re well connected to the capital. For those based outside of London (a slight majority, in fact) we’re always willing to jump on a train and visit, whether that’s in Bristol or Aberdeen - even if that means a few extra early mornings! As mentioned in the article, we’re proud that we don’t compete on cost, but instead on the great quality of work, experience and strategy we can offer - as well as making a cracking cuppa.

There are a few other benefits to being in Yorkshire as well...

Team Chatter enjoying a walk in the Yorkshire wilds

Back on the right side of the Pennines!

I’m just over 2 months in to my new role as a Chatterino and I have to say I’m loving every single minute of life at Chatter HQ. I hop out of bed on a morning with a spring in my step as the dawn is breaking and the birds are singing, and skip into the office... Well mostly; 4am starts for a 20 hour day in Dublin are greeted with a little less enthusiasm, but that’s because I’m a girl who needs her sleep!

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself here as I’ve not even introduced myself. I’m the newest member of the Chatter team (although sadly that does not make me the youngest considering I’m older than almost everyone else here), so I’m what industry bios would usually refer to as a “stalwart” of the recruitment comms industry having clocked up almost 16 years in the business, first at Brilliant (now Mediacom) in Leeds and latterly over in Manchester at Sparks (formerly Feather Brooksbank/Carat). Along the way I’ve managed to get married and have 3 babies as well as indulging my dramatic side in various am-dram pantos, a few TV quiz show appearances and many, many nights at Charlie’s karaoke in Manchester...

All my adult life seems to have been spent zipping back and forth across the Pennines first because my boyfriend lived in Yorkshire and I lived in Cheshire, then after I moved over to join (and eventually marry) him, I ended up working back in Manchester at both my previous agencies. So first and foremost I am LOVING the fact that Chatter are based in Leeds and that everyone knows what I’m talking about when I mention where I’ve been on a weekend and work nights out don’t involve the midnight Transpennine Express and it’s many dubious characters. I am also loving my fabulous new colleagues and the wide variety of clients and projects that I’ve already had the opportunity to work on. The work we do here is so varied, looking at internal and external comms and all aspects of employee engagement.

The culture at Chatter is totally unique; a warm and friendly team (especially Harry and Tom who demanded a name check!) with Partners who have striven to create a genuinely inclusive, supportive and flexible woking environment that makes it impossible not to feel at home from day one. We have so much fun that even the most busy and stressful days are enjoyable and we can always find five minutes to have a dance around the office to a bit of Dolly Parton. What more could a girl ask for?!

Caterpillar to butterfly, student to Chatterino

I was starting my third and final year at university and had little valuable experience to equip me in the big, bad world of work! Even worse, I had virtually no idea what to do after my student experience had expired - graduation was the end of the line, and at that moment I had no idea what train to get on next…

The process of getting organized and employable began at the University Careers Centre, who plugged all my aims, interests and skills into their careers matrix. They told me the job that I best matched was an Account Exec. “A what?” I did some research about the position and found that a lot of the skills involved came naturally to me. So, I had a little peek at some of the Account Exec jobs going in Leeds based advertising agencies but found that all of them required some degree of experience.

I decided to send speculative emails to them asking for any work experience they could give me alongside my degree. Although the majority didn’t reply I managed to get an internship working every Monday at an ad agency in the middle of Leeds. I loved being part of their small team and the whole experience reinforced my desire to work in advertising.

Inevitably for every student, the second half of third year is far more challenging as you have to catch up with work that should have been done in the first half.  Dissertation deadlines loom, essays seem impossible to finish; long nights spent in the library and a weary season of exams mean that thinking about what to do after Uni is often put on hold. So once I had finished my last exam I realised that, with barely a month left on my house lease, I needed to start applying for jobs or I would be doomed to leave my beloved Leeds and return home for the summer.

I looked on the university careers database and applied for some of the jobs that were advertised. After what seemed like an eternity of disappointing clicks, my eye was drawn to a particularly exciting Account Exec position at Chatter! I immediately liked their friendly, informal and humorous approach. My excitement grew as I began doing my research, looking through their case studies, their Twitter and Facebook and crafting an application email which aimed to show how this position was ideally suited to me and hoping to persuade the Chatter team that I was equally ideal to become the newest Chatterino.

When I was happy with it I sent it off an eagerly waited for a reply… I wasn’t waiting long. 5 minutes later I got a cheery reply from Lisa telling me to hang tight and enjoy the football! A couple of days later I was invited for my first interview. The crippling anxiety I had felt the days before was certainly not warranted, and what I feared would be an Alan Sugar-esque grilling was in fact a really pleasant chat with Paul, Lisa and Jon. I thought it had gone well and was over the moon to be invited back for a second interview – though daunted at delivering the presentation I had been asked to prepare. Despite the added worry of remaining composed in the sweltering Yorkshire heat, the presentation and the following questions went pretty well. Hours later I received a call from the guys offering me the job! I can only compare the nature of my celebratory shout after the phone call to a George of the Jungle style bellow!

However, the anxiety about getting a job was quickly replaced with the anxiety of keeping a job! How will I adapt to a strict work routine? How will I adapt to work routine after the late nights and late mornings of Uni life? How will I manage to look smart without an iron to my name? How will I cope away from the dodgy graffiti ridden student accommodation of Hyde Park? Suddenly I needed to be an adult.

However, yet again my worries don’t seem to be warranted! I have been made to feel so welcome and have really enjoyed my first week here at Chatter Towers. Having coped with a series of £10 Asda phones, I am now in possession of my first iPhone and have abandoned the cheapest dell laptop for a svelte Apple Mac. I am shocked to discover that a room in a smart professional house is in fact cheaper than the damp, hovels I have inhabited for the last two years. I am delighted to find that the transition from student to professional is far less traumatic than I expected.  In fact, rather than looking back on the glory days, it feels like the 'good times' are about to begin.  

Team Chatter are running for Joseph…

Six people. Two smokers. One mother of two. One photographer. One ballroom-dancer. And Paul. Thirteen point one miles.  Have I built this up enough yet?

This year, Team Chatter will be channeling the Olympic spirit of our Yorkshire brethren - the Brownlees,  Jessica Ennis, and the rest - as we lace up our trainers and lather on the Vaseline, and take part in the Leeds Half Marathon. Not gonna lie, we’re doing it as a team, so we’re each doing around 2 miles rather than the full whack, but that’s more than enough for some of us! Still, it’s a challenge, and we’re looking forward to a sprint around the ring-road before hitting the finish line in the city-centre.

But we’re not doing this just for our own health. We’ll soon be passing round the collection tin, asking you for donations to a great cause in support of a very brave little boy. 

Joseph Lillywhite, aged 5, was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma in January 2013. Neuroblastoma is a very aggressive childhood cancer that causes 15% of childhood cancer deaths. Two children are diagnosed every week in the UK. Unfortunately, long-term survival for children with high risk neuroblastoma is less than half the average rate for other childhood cancer and relapse rates are high. 

Despite neuroblastoma being “high risk” there is no Protocol in the UK  for relapse neuroblastoma if treatment is needed. More often than not children and their families are required to raise money for treatment in either Europe or the United States. 

The Neuroblastoma Alliance UK helps children if they can't join UK trials or if they need a clinical treatment that is only available abroad. To date, they have enabled 21 children to access the potentially life-saving clinical treatment abroad, and have funded ground-breaking neuroblastoma research. They also support families, and will support Joseph and his family in the future should he need to travel abroad for additional treatment. 

Hopefully, Joseph won’t require any further treatment, in which case any funds raised will go directly to The Neuroblastoma Alliance UK to help fund other children who do need further treatment. In addition, the funds will aid the research and development of new and improved treatment of this childhood cancer.

So, please, support this great cause by clicking on the link below. And if you’re around Leeds on the 11th May, it would be great to see you on the roadside cheering us on!


You can follow Joseph’s Journey at


Two weeks at Chatter Towers

(by Sophie)

My placement at Chatter was ultimately to help me get a feel for the branding and advertising industry – alongside getting some real hands on experience. It has been a short and fab two weeks…

Commuting. Where do I start? So apparently when the train pulls in, it is every suited briefcase carrier for themselves, and the days of letting a young lady (ish) in front of you are a thing of the past! People sit/stand with their headphones in, nobody talks, it is AMAZING. There's no small talk or drunken tramps striking a trivial conversation with you just get on, get off and go (can't quite say the same for the local bus to the office - a lot of weirdoes!)

The office is cool; because it’s a nice size I especially like Monday comms meetings on the sofas because they're dead comfy! 

The guys are such a good bunch who have the balance between work and witty banter within the workplace on point. Harry literally makes my day ha I don't think I have ever met a charismatic southerner and the fact that he is super bright makes him so much funnier.

Tom has got me on board with most of his work while I’ve been here and he's been by my side throughout, he has cleared my mind of a lot and filled in plenty of gaps! I'm grateful to have been able to chat with him about the choices ahead.

Paul is great at his job and he is even better at distracting you when he's taking the Mick out of someone, or a recent news story, or society in general. I have been blessed to have done my placement when Paul is not too busy and is very tolerant - so I’m told.

Lisa is LOUD. Louder than I remember or have ever experienced before, especially when she's on the phone. She's a stylish workaholic who has put my future expectations of a boss on quite a pedestal. I respect her so much for her attitude to work, family and life in general and not trying to make her head as big as her mouth - but she is the person I aspire to be myself.

Banjo (Ashleigh) and Jon are my neighbors at my desk and are always there to answer my whispered queries when I don't want to sound like such a newbie. They know so much stuff about everything! And Google EVERYTHING, so if they don't know, they will in a minute, which has often taken our conversations off on crazy tangents…

21 life skills I've learnt on my placement

  1. Nobody knows everything, only Google does.
  2. Radio 6 and Radio 2 are actually decent stations that normal people listen to
  3. How to screen grab on a Mac (Googled it)
  4. It’s okay to have a blonde ditzy moment in a professional environment as long as you can deal with the banter afterwards.
  5. BBC News notifications usually mean someone has died
  6. How to do this job!! And the fact that it is something I would consider post-graduation
  7. You will usually email the people in the same room as you about 10 times a day
  8. Ask questions, nobody will get annoyed - What does this mean? How would you do this? Does this make sense? What would you do if -? You’ll learn much more than you set out to
  9. Fasting diets send people insane
  10. You will be banished if you do not pull your weight in doing the brew round, or make a crap brew (for Paul or Lisa)
  11. Also one must always ask if anyone wants anything from ASDA
  12. Look smart, work smart
  13. Take on board everything people tell you when you’re learning. Listen and engage and it will make you better at your job
  14. Getting up early makes you feel, work and sleep better!
  15. Lisa apparently knows who's calling when she's on the other side of the room - but she is wrong every time, 99% of the time. 
  16. You will get nowhere in this industry if you are not prepared to work hard everyday, in the office at home and anywhere in between.
  17. Every office needs a Harry
  18. Just because people are smart, successful or “have been doing this since you were in nappies” does not mean they're scary and unapproachable
  19. Snack-a-jacks and graze boxes are the future of snacking
  20. All the “great” music was released when Paul was about 4 - according to Paul Ainley (2014)
  21. Advertising is definitely the industry I want to work in. – MISSION SUCCESSFUL

Last shout out to the team at Chatter - thanks for giving me this valuable experience! Don’t be strangers, be prepared for questions off me even when I’ve left and I look forward to seeing you all again in the future (3rd birthday!) 

Our most recent engagement!

The gang at Chatter have been busy helping our newest member of the team settle in to the nest. 

Ashleigh Pickard joins the team from Npower where she was responsible for internal communications.  Most recently she was part of the project team who implemented SAP - no mean feat. 

Over the next few weeks, Ashleigh will be supporting us to increase the level of expertise and support we can offer when it comes to internal communications and engagement strategies, with a view to being able to offer a more robust level of support in this area in the future.

It’s fab to have her on board and we’re looking forward to introducing her properly to our clients and flock over the next few weeks.

Hopping on board…

Successfully onboarding employees is becoming an ever-greater priority for many businesses. The attrition rate in the first few months of joining (or in the case of graduates, in the many months between leaving the world of student loans and joining the salaried masses) is often high, while the cost of replacing employees who leave is often in the thousands. When I joined, Chatter wanted to practice what they preach, and make sure I couldn’t escape their clutches.

Following on from the interviews in late January, I was offered the job with the guys in February. I had always planned on going traveling in June around China and Vietnam (while wearing a Chatter-branded t-shirt), so I would start in July and walk straight from my graduation ceremony into the job. In the months before I started, I was always welcome to stop by the office for a brew and a biscuit, I was invited along to the company’s 2nd birthday shin-dig, and Paul lent me his massive rucksack to save me the expensive of buying a new one. 

Best of all, I was thrown a going away party. The catch? I first had to spend the day putting up flat-pack furniture in the new office, and I had to arrange the party with Harry, as a test of the teamwork and unity we would soon be thrust in to developing. We ended up playing golf on simulators in a bar before heading for a thoroughly underwhelming meal at The Living Room. Still, was an amazing send off.

Since I’ve started, I’ve really been thrown into the deep-end. I’ve helped plan the grad fair campaign for a big bus and train company, been given the responsibility for the day-to-day running of a major new client, and been kicked out of a kebab shop at 5 in the morning after an awards do in Manchester! (We won two awards, one of which I promptly went and broke). Team lunches are a regular thing, although since we’ve got a lot busier it’s more likely to be take-out than eating out.

I get to go to work and supply a service that makes me proud, have a laugh, do something I enjoy, and learn from three experienced (translation: old) business partners. By getting me involved with everything before I even started, I felt like part of the team before my first day had even started.

The three month itch…

So my three months probation with the Chatter team is up. And I’ve been asked to write this before the final hearing - not sure if that’s a good sign, or the guys giving me a chance to say my last goodbyes before I’m not-so-gently shown the door! To say that I’ve gone from 0-60 mph in a short space of time is an understatement. 3 months ago, regardless of what was said in my interview, I really didn’t know much about what Chatter actually did. Now, I’ve got copies of prestigious magazines featuring ads I’ve helped create (God bless the Flock!) sitting on my desk waiting to be scrap-booked; a 4-sheet poster up in Birmingham New Street station; and my first grad recruitment fair coming up next week - more of which to follow I’m sure. It all culminated last week with a trip to Manchester for the Recruitment Business Awards - my first industry bash with the guys, and one which ended with me crawling into bed, legs sore and voice in tatters, after a night of laughter and revelry - at 5am! I was a broken man, curled up alone in my dragon onesie. Although I pride myself on being able to take a call from the lovely Rozy at Atkins to get some final adjustments to an ad made at 9:30am. (See, Paul, sociable AND hardworking - now just honest and direct to crowbar in!) I don’t want to take all the credit, but since I’ve been with Chatter we’ve won 2 awards and got a commendation!! Well, technically it’s now 1 and 9/10ths of an awards after an unfortunate incident with them in my car... I mean really, who gives out glass awards anyway!! That’s just asking for trouble. So, as my review dawns on the horizon, I turn to Arwen from the Lord of the Rings for inspiration - “Ú i vethed... nâ i onnad (this is not the end ... it is the beginning.)” I can’t wait to find out what the next 3 months will bring (what a cheesy end!!!!! Sorry all)

CHEERS DRIVE - H's First journey into Bus Driver Recruitment

For someone that doesn’t have a driving licence, this month has been an eye-opening journey into the world of driving as a profession. But bus driving is much much more than just driving - its about customer service, keeping your cool, managing money and connecting people from all different backgrounds. It takes a certain kind of person. A people person. And they were exactly the kind of people that our wonderful client First Group were after when they asked us at Chatter to help them out with Bus Driver recruitment in Bristol and Avon. Whilst First were clear about the kind of people that they wanted to help them connect communities in Bristol, reaching such a specific audience needed some assistance. The solution? A radio campaign that really bought in to Bristol. We called it ‘CHEERS DRIVE’ (A Bristolian phrase to thank Bus Drivers) and needless to say we ran with the concept! We enlisted the help of the fantastic guys at Global Radio to promote First Group roles across Heart FM in the South West during an intense week of ‘CHEERS DRIVING’, with regional accents galore for a 30-second campaign run across mid-September. Hopefully we’ve managed to avoid the pitfalls of local radio advertising and not annoy too many people along the way. A bigger First was the fact that we even managed to rope in their Breakfast presenters to challenge themselves in a spot of bus driving in the name of competition! And of course, to get some great people on board for First (video attached below). The presenters really bought into the CHEERS DRIVE campaign and everyone had a great time testing out their proficiency with a 30 foot vehicle at their mercy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55eUni6al9k Managing the project was an eye-opener for me. The responsibility, the time-management, the need to make phone-calls - all very new experiences. Fortunately Global guided, and I willingly obliged, with the guys at First reassuringly keen to help out. It was great to work with both the guys at Heart and First Group on this campaign so all that’s left to say is: ‘CHEERS DRIVE!’ And I should really consider getting that licence. H

Chatter wins out in a 3 way pitch…

It was high-fives and whoops all round when team Chatter got the news that they had been chosen to work with Atkins, the global engineering, design, planning, project management and consulting services company, after a 3 way pitch process last month.

The 2 businesses are looking forward to building a lasting partnership which will see them bed down Atkins’ new employer brand, support them with talent attraction and help them engage their existing employee community in the new brand too.

Partner at Chatter, Paul Ainley commented “Atkins are a great business for us to be working with. From our earliest conversations we could see there was plenty of common ground when it came to our thinking around employer brand and reputation. We all got on well too, which is really important given that we’ve all got an eye on the long term.”

The team are now busy working through implementation with a go live date planned for later in the year.

Harry's Yorkshire Challenge: The Results

SO... After a month of strenuous effort, gallons of ale, and half-hearted singing attempts, the decision was left to YOU as to whether I had passed my Yorkshire Challenge prior to Yorkshire Day! Having been inundated with votes after four long weeks of shame, depression and social faux pas’ it is clear that the people have spoken... and fortunately my joyous rendition of  ‘On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at’ has tugged at the heartstrings enough for me to be accepted as the most dubious of  ‘honourary Yorkshireman’... for now. There is still a long way to go, and I’m definitely going to have a go at some of the suggestions put forward for more challenges (cricket was always lacking in Norfolk). So keep an eye on the blog for further Yorkshire exploits... and DON'T forget that Chatter's newest recruit Tom shall be endearing himself to the masses pretty soon... FINALLY. The vote as to whether Paul should complete the challenges so as to prove how a REAL Yorkshireman should behave was unanimous. The people have said that he’s got to complete some challenges, BUT at the moment he’s refusing... what challenges would you suggest for him? A Wuthering Heights recital? [caption id="attachment_1326" align="aligncenter" width="300"] SUCCESS! AFTER A LONG GRUELLING MONTH...[/caption]

Yorkshire Challenge - THE VOTE

It's 1st August... Yorkshire Day! And... That can only mean that it is time to assess my month of depression, anxiety and shame in attempting to initiate myself as an honorary Yorkshireman. Now it's up to you to decide whether I've made the grade, or whether I should be consigned to afternoons of Radio 2 (as is Paul's wish) as opposed to the 6Music that I have become accustomed to. Just to re-cap, I've rehashed the mess of footage that was my July... Enjoy, and remember to VOTE below! H  

Yorkshire Challenge #4

‘Ey Up! Well today signifies the completion of my fourth and final Yorkshire challenge, just in time for Yorkshire Day on Thursday and the vote on my credentials as an honorary Yorkshireman. The guys, with their ongoing quest to make me unemployable, sent me off to Ilkley, and the video should hopefully detail the task I was set once there. Now plunged into depression, I shall NEVER maintain a presence on social media again. Enjoy! And remember to vote on Thursday, I think I’ve put in some dedication, so let me know what you think? Cheers, H

Challenge #3 - ALE

Another week... Another Yorkshire Challenge for Harry. This weeks' is a little bit of a cop-out in all honesty. Either we're slowly running out of ideas for my challenges or the guys want to complete my public humiliation through a series of drunken ramblings, but I've been asked to sample some Yorkshire Ales! In my mind, I planned to live solely off Black Sheep and create a masterpiece (a bit like David Bowie with his 'cocaine, milk and red pepper phase' for Station to Station), but alas, I've given in to reason and shortened my drink fuelled escapades down to an evening! And here it is! It might be strangely edited, but that's purely to avoid further embarrassment to myself.   Make sure you keep an eye out for next weeks vlog - It promises to be a bit special, and then you'll get the opportunity to vote on my lack of prowess as an 'honourary' Yorkshireman. I think I could have answered the longrunning question at the very start! Cheers, and let me know if you think the 'challenges' could be made a little more Yorkshire, far less tragic! H Yorkshire challenge #3 - ALE from Chatter on Vimeo.

First week woes…

After having agreed to join Chatter all the way back in February, time has flown, exams have been passed, China and Vietnam have been visited, and having received no better offer along the way (joking guys!!) I find myself a full-time and fully-fledged part of the Chatter family. My to-do list for my first week was simple - learn how to make a proper brew (sorry Paul); buy champagne for a winning pitch of which I was an integral member; find a decent golf club to join (my own personal aim - any recommendations?); and pick a couple of businesses to invest in through the micro-finance firm Kiva.

I decided to make my initial loans to two companies where I felt a personal connection. Having seen the strength of the nation’s recovery following the American war, but also the lingering ramifications of the conflict, I felt that Vietnam would be a worthy and sensible place to invest. Scanning through Kiva’s listings, I found a street-food vendor, Mai, in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) who sells ‘pho’ - beef and noodles in a broth with lots of coriander. It was a dish that helped eradicate the memories of bland rice and soggy, unidentifiable vegetables from my weeks in China. Mai hopes the loan will allow her to improve the quality of the food on sale. Restaurants falling over onto the streets, packed full with both tourists and locals, and the noises and the smells overwhelming the senses are some of my abiding memories of Vietnam. Hopefully, with my contribution, Mai will be able to offer similar culinary joys to future globetrotters. For my second loan, I looked towards a different part of the world. While at uni I wrote a paper investigating the economic causes of the civil war that engulfed Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone is classed as a ‘failed state’ and it’s population are part of the group that make up ‘the bottom billion’ - the number of people worldwide who live on less that $1 a day. Idrissa owns a small shop selling jewelry, make-up and hair products in Tonkolili district, northern Sierra Leone. He will use the loan to expand his existing stock and buy in wholesale. Tonkolili is emerging as an important iron-ore mining region, so Idrissa has a great opportunity to become a successful entrepreneur. For some interesting reads about Sierra Leone, and development economics in general, check out: Paul Collier - The Bottom Billion (a leading economist on Africa and poverty writing about the world’s poorest billion people who he believes are in danger of being permanently left behind as the rest of the world develops) Tim Butcher - Chasing the Devil (a British journalist’s trek through Sierra Leone and neighbouring Liberia, looking at their descent into war and poverty from such promising beginnings, and their chances of recovery) Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo - Poor Economics (two leading development economists who aim to overturn many myths about the way people in developing nations make decisions) Now it’s time to get back to proper work. I think the tea has brewed long enough, and the champagne is suitably chilled. It’s a tough life...   Tom  


Harry's Yorkshire Challenge #2

'Ey Up! Now then... with the Great Yorkshire Show taking place over the past few days, the guys at Chatter thought they would set me a challenge based around real Yorkshire  produce... How better to prove my credentials than make food synonymous with the county - Yorkshire Puddings! The video below shows you how I got on, let me know what you think, Yorkshire Pudding challenge from Chatter on Vimeo. Cheers, H  

Harry's Yorkshire Challenge #1

So as you may know by now, the guys at Chatter have set me some challenges to determine my prowess as a true Yorkshireman. We weren’t allowed an office whippet, and I don’t have any challengers for my ferret-legging task as yet... so we thought we would begin on a low key note... some rugby league! Check out the video below to see how I got on... Harry's Yorkshire Challenge #1 from Chatter on Vimeo. 3 videos to go and then you get the opportunity to vote on my progress. Cheers, H

Harry's Yorkshire Challenge…

Here at Chatter, it's fair to say we're proud of our Yorkshire roots... Just like folk from Yorkshire, we're Honest, Direct, Hardworking & Sociable. Our newest recruit Harry isn't from these parts, but we think he's got everything it takes to become a fully fledged Yorkshireman, so we've decided to put him to the test. Throughout July, he'll be undertaking 4 challenges to see just how Yorkshire he can be. Each challenge will be filmed and posted here on our Facebook page. And on Yorkshire day (1st August) you'll decide whether Harry's Yorkshire enough. Good Luck Harry! http://vimeo.com/69454914

three months in… honeymoon period or baptism of fire?

As my first three months at Chatter have approached an end, I guess its time to reflect on the so called ‘honeymoon period’ I’ve enjoyed with my fellow Chatterers. This is the first time I’ve really managed to face up to long term commitment and I have never had to endure such longevity - so to be honest I haven’t really been able to appreciate the point of sticking around - I’ve realised now that its not really all that bad. My Dad has been at his work for over thirty years, so there is a precedent for me to follow, and my time with the guys at Chatter hasn’t provided any hurdles I’ve felt unable to negotiate. Entering the mystical world of employer branding (at least that’s what I’ve been telling people I’ve been doing) has been as eye opening as it has enticing. I’ve dealt with deadlines, a lot of inspirational individuals, and my fair share of frustration; and I genuinely feel that I’m up for more of the same, if the guys will allow it. From my first day at Chatter I’ve felt welcomed, and I feel part of a team doing work that really means a great deal to all involved. I’ve spent days with our wonderful clients, and friends of Chatter, that have gone a long way to helping me uncover the industry, and I can only thank everyone for their contribution to my development. My phone manner is now in line with that of someone who has SOME grasp of the English language (thanks Hayley at Telefonica) and I am finally able to appreciate the term ‘our’ to denote a member of my family. I shall one day be the honorary Yorkshireman I’ve shown promise to become... maybe. Chatter is the perfect platform for me to succeed. I have pissed them all off with my lack of appreciation for mid-nineties culture (I was four, five, six), and carbo-loading on fast days (as evidenced in the photo below). I’ve also all too often described the guys in relation to my parents, but I’m sure they’ve got more to come when our next recruit Tom joins (I’m feel I'm only really preparing them for the next generation of graduates that come through the doors). They’ve taken it in good jest and have only politely informed me that I have so much more to learn in a working and social sense. After all, I am here to learn and am here for the long term, if allowed. Honeymoon period? Now I presume I’ll wait for the seven year itch? H

Some true Yorkshire grit…

Over the past few weeks we've been supporting Joseph Lillywhite and his family as they face the biggest challenge of their lives.

Joseph is only 5 years old and in January 2013 he was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma after being slightly unwell for a few weeks with a virus. The Lillywhite's received this devastating news after taking Joseph to A&E after several visits to their GP. Joseph's mum Helen explained "words cannot describe the complete and utter devastation of finding out that our precious child has been diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare and very aggressive childhood cancer". The tumour has grown around Joseph's kidney and there was cancer evident in his bone marrow, hips and thighs. Joseph is currently receiving frontline treatment at the Leeds General Infirmary from a fantastic team to whom we are extremely grateful, however, Neuroblastoma is a very aggressive childhood cancer. We know that it causes 15% of childhood cancer deaths and that two children are diagnosed every week in the UK. Unfortunately, long term survival for children with high risk neuroblastoma is less than half the average rate for other childhood cancer and relapse rates are high. There's been a groundswell of local support for the Lillywhite family including lots of offers to help raise funds for Joseph and so the family have decided to support the Neuroblastoma Alliance UK because they will help if Joseph can’t join the UK trials, or if they need a clinical treatment that is only available abroad. If you'd like to support Joseph you can either donate by visiting: http://www.justgiving.com/josephlillywhite or get involved at www.josephlillywhite.co.uk or like Joseph's page on facebook.com/josephlillywhite

Kiva Qualms…

I was wrong when I thought that entrusting me with a phone, and a key (as well as allowing me to dress as I saw necessary), was the Chatter limit; and I wouldn’t have blamed them. But the guys had the generous idea of also entrusting me with monetary funds after my first day. Funds to invest on Chatter’s behalf in a growing business through Kiva. They masked it as a welcome gift, but I knew it was to test my moral choices, I imagine its part of many a recruitment process nowadays? Kiva is a non-profit organisation that allows people to lend money via the Internet to people (generally entrepreneurs) in developing countries through micro-finance. It includes individual stories of each person who needs a loan so that ‘lenders’ can choose an entrepreneur they wish to fund. The money sent by the ‘lender’ is then transferred to the micro-finance institution (or Field Partner) and disbursed to the selected individual, providing them with the funds required to grow their business. The idea is that eventually the loan is repaid and the ‘lender’ recoups their money and it can be reinvested to another entrepreneur. The concept is brilliant, and I wholeheartedly support the cause, but I was initially left with a dilemma... Who to lend the money to? My studies of the Poor Law System hadn’t really endeared me to the idea of classifying those ‘deserving’ of funding from those not. I realised the ‘welcome gift’ my employers had given to me was a bit of a nightmare, and I couldn’t just plump for the Juan Milton because of a surname... could I? Fortunately my qualms regarding the selection of the ‘deserving’ poor for my loan were alleviated by the fact that the full loan is pre-disbursed to the ‘borrowers’ by the micro-financiers, meaning that ‘lenders’ do not make the decision as to whether the individual is deserving of funding based on their picture and story. I could just plump for a namesake? Well I had a little think, and I’ve came up with a couple of entrepreneurs I could be pals with...

  • Julius makes shoes in Thika, Kenya. I can appreciate a decent pair of leather shoes. Providing him with the opportunity to grow his shoe-making business is great; and he intends to educate his family with the proceeds. Education was an important part of the ITFC Charitable Trust trip to Kenya, and I’m an Ipswich fan, so I feel that the choice is in someway justified... I just hope I get the opportunity to buy some shoes off Julius once his business rockets!
  • I have been intrigued by Peru ever since I read a fantastic article retelling the story of Peruvian political struggles during the early 1990’s. Whilst Peru has experienced massive social, cultural and economic growth in recent years, the economic disparities between communities are excessive... Dania is the same age as me (21), and hasn’t been afforded the opportunity to study that I have. Her ambition to succeed should not be blighted by her economic circumstance, and she deserves to do well! She also makes red spaghetti, and spaghetti dishes formed a pretty substantial part of my student diet, aside from cold meats and the like.

Hopefully, with the smallest of contributions, I can help these guys to build their businesses and one day see them featured alongside me on a Forbes . One day. If you would like to join us on the Forbes Hot 100 you should sign up too. If you sign up through the Chatter lending Team you get $25 free to loan. DONE. Harry

Give a grad a go?

Last year was a struggle. Amongst the self pity and feeling that ‘I had def completed my part of this graduate bargain’, I was struggling to find a graduate job. My answer was to hide away, in an ScS warehouse, until the New Year... Fortunately, seven months on, I managed to convince the Chatter guys I was alright; but with the news that uni may not be worth it after all, I gave my bitter housemates the opportunity to vent regarding the six grievances that have made their own searches for a graduate scheme such a struggle... WEBSITES- Company Careers and Graduate sites are often the first port of call for guys looking to enter the world of work post-uni... Unfortunately the ‘unique culture’ each business claims to have engrained within itself are few and far between. Lost beneath the vague corporate message seems to be the type of characters actually required, making it very difficult to understand what companies are looking for. CAREERS FAIRS- The fairs seem to be regarded as a ‘must attend’ by employers keen on early undergraduate engagement, yet in our experiences, they have often been understaffed by poorly prepared employees who cannot always answer the questions you really need answered... Whilst the ‘freebie hype’ is undoubted, on most occasions, the guys didn’t get the opportunity to speak to grads in the roles they had applied for... The idea that they are a ‘must attend’ if you wish to gain graduate employment is scuppered by the fact that it is very difficult to network at such events and you garner very few worthwhile answers. LOCATION ISSUES- It is difficult to know where a company is based if the only communication you receive is ‘Nationwide’. Combined with the fact that there was no initial point of contact with a particular role, one of my mates was told they would be working in Manchester only for that to be altered to Milton Keynes as she advanced through the recruitment process. TESTS- With a report last year claiming that every graduate role receives 52 applications, it is important for recruiters to sift, that is the accepted norm... the grievance that my housemates have is that the online ‘competency’ tests are often pointless, not a guarantee of progression, and in any case are very easy to get a pal to do! In our experiences, recruiters claim to test everyone again at the assessment centre, but on more than one occasion, have decided to ‘select’ a small amount of candidates for retest without explanation... Why such inconsistency of approach? PERSONALITY- Creating a consistent tone/personality for a business is something I have had to learn quickly during my short time at Chatter. Rather inevitably, the grievances in this sense, should not necessarily come as a surprise... ‘Too corporate’, ‘no sense of community,’ and a ‘lack of personality’ were some of the reasons my mates felt disconnected from some graduate schemes... with a friendly atmosphere and passionate approach perceived to be one of the greatest draws. FEEDBACK- Rejection is inevitable. It is not the worst part of the recruitment process. What is? The indifference of the vast majority of companies to your applications... You begin to lose count of the number of companies and schemes you apply for without receiving an email confirming receipt of your application... Some reply after three months, others never... Yet the lack of contact is at least consistent throughout the process. One graduate employer openly stated their reluctance to communicate- explaining to final stage candidates, ‘We’ll call you if you’ve got the job... you might receive an email if you haven't.’ Whilst my housemates are now lucky enough to avoid being in the 40 per cent of university leavers failing to get a graduate-level job, it is clear that the of roles are just not there...When the roles are few and far between, I’m sure some of the graduate employers are likely to continue with this practice of sifting candidates with an inconsistent and faceless approach; leading to a lot of confusion... confusing enough for me is settling on one consistent accent. Harry

Two teas and a black coffee…

“When you are asked if you can do a job, tell 'em, 'Certainly I can!' Then get busy and find out how to do it.” Theodore Roosevelt Hi. Im Harry. And I’m the newest member of the Chatter team... I’ve spent most of my time as a fanatic. A football and music fanatic- sometimes trying to get involved- with little success... I’m a Leeds Uni History grad originally from Norfolk, and I moved back to Leeds two months ago with a couple of bags of clothes and a Pete Doherty poster... Despite my lack of preparation for post-graduation Leeds, I was determined to find carve out a worthwhile media career... Fortunately I was able to convince the guys at Chatter that my career should begin with them.  I didn’t necessarily know what to expect from my first week at Chatter, but one thing I did/still do expect is... that I have a lot to learn. With this in mind, I guessed I would detail seven things I’ve learnt in my seven days since becoming a fully ‘chatterised’ member... One: No-one sympathises with my woes regarding the ungodly 9am starts of the working world. Two: Business cards remain an exciting novelty. Three: Charcuterie and crispy rolls do not form the basis for a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Four: Despite the fact that I have made first foray into graduate work, I can still pass for seventeen, even whilst at work. Five: Novelty/floral print jumpers are unfortunately not the norm in the working world. Six: It’s no use explaining to people what I actually do for a living. My mum is still convinced I’m involved in something unsavoury. Seven: Two teas, one black coffee- three sugars.   Next week hopefully I’ll learn something worthwhile, and further convince the guys that I can one day be worthwhile having around. With Doherty on the wall, what can go wrong?   Harry

Chatter cleans up at the RBA awards…

There are some very sore heads among the Chatterinos today. Last night saw us hit Manchester for the Recruitment Business Awards 2012 (the RBA's) and we're very pleased to be bringing home THREE (count 'em!) commendations for Skype, Northgate and Arqiva as well as an award for our work with the Hyde Group. It was a great night, laid on by The Drum, with entertainment from Irelands leading Hip Hop crew, Abandoman. They were hilarious, improvising a series of songs on the spot using objects from people's pockets and people from the crowd. They even got our very own Paul up on stage to humiliate in public...join in the fun. To celebrate the night we've launched a shiny new case studies section on our website, where you can find more details about all of that work and more. We couldn't have done it without our clients and of course our lovely Flock some of whom were in attendance last night too. So a big pat on the back to all of them. Cheers! [gallery link="file" columns="2"]  

Heard the one about the cookies?

If you've been engaged in building a new website lately, or implementing a new bit of software for public use (like an Applicant Tracking System for example) then you may have heard some rumblings about Cookies and the new EU Cookie law. We thought it might be useful to throw a few notes on the blog here to give you some background. So, what's it all about? Well in a nutshell, don't worry, it's all a storm in a teacup and fairly easily worked around...but you do need to be aware of it. Now, the longer version! In May 2012, the UK finally implemented the EU directive on the use of cookies (and similar technology) on websites. It was a badly drafted, badly implemented law, so broadly framed that it made pretty much every website in the UK illegal overnight. The law basically said that if your website wanted to store any cookies on a users machine, then you had to ask for (and receive) their explicit permission first. On the face of it this sounds quite reasonable, after all, there's lots of nasty companies out there tracking our every move right? Well, no. There are probably some very egregious uses of cookies out there, but they're definitely the exception rather than the rule. Unfortunately genuinely useful, and pretty much benign, cookies like those used by Google Analytics, social sharing buttons, Youtube videos and some content management systems are also covered by the same law. So we were left with the possibility that we'd either have to break the law, or ask every visitor a confusing question they'd probably say no to (it's easier than trying to understand what's being asked) and see the statistics for all our sites drop through the floor overnight. Making ROI considerably harder to divine! Fortunately when the law was first introduced, the iCO also gave it a 12 month deferral period to allow everyone to get ready, which expired in May 2012. They accompanied it with some really vague guidance that left everybody nonplussed...so most web developers did what they thought best...and ignored it in the hope it would go away. 12 months later, about 11 hours before the law was due to come into force the iCO introduced new guidance that watered down the requirements somewhat...so where does that leave us? Well, it all depends on your attitude to risk, with a potential of a £500k fine you should at the very least review all your websites and get a good handle on what cookies they're setting and how they're being used. Ideally the output of that exercise should then be used to redraft your Privacy Policy page to include information on how the cookies are used, and amend any links to it in your site header and footer to clearly state that it's about Cookies as well. Then, finally look at how you might work to either eradicate the cookies entirely, or implement some level of cookie compliance software to gain users consent. That way, if the iCO come knocking, you can evidence you're aware of the issue and have a plan and a thought process in place to deal with any enforcement notice they might issue. Phew...

What does life after the Olympics hold for us?

If you're anything like us, your life will have been entirely abducted by the fabulous London Olympics. I know not everyone views them through the same rose-tinted spectacles as us, but I've not heard a single compelling reason not to get carried away with the games. And as if GB's medal tally alone wasn't excuse enough to run the union flag up the pole, to know that so many of them have been won by Yorkshire athletes has just about sent us over the edge. We've been profoundly swept away in this tidal wave of national pride and celebration - of what it would be like to be British if we weren't so uptight, cynical and self-opposing. So once the Brazilians strip us of the games (see what I did there?) what will life be like? How will we move on? It'll surely be the worst "day after the night before" we've experienced ever. Not necessarily. We were in the grip of a similar bout of national euphoria when we were awarded the games on the 6th of July 2005 only to be confronted by the London bombings the very next day. 52 people had been killed. I was in London that day and can remember how it was to see a city come to terms with such mindless destruction. What I remember most though, is how quickly everyone picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and got straight back to doing whatever it was they do every other day of their lives. Since then, it has seemed as though we've carried on dealing with bad news, difficult situations and challenging times. We've pulled in our belts so many times we're running out of notches - but nonetheless we've carried on, it's the way we are built, we're good at making do. And amongst all that doom and gloom, all that bad news, underhand dealings and pessimism, there's been a group of people, who have given everything they have to perform at their very best when their moment arrived. They're efforts have inspired us all. The world has watched as athletes from all over the globe have brought the Olympic values of respect, friendship and excellence to life, right there in our living rooms and across our capital city. I hope we continue to celebrate all that they have achieved. To remember how hard they worked. And to imagine how it must have felt to win. If we let them, if we push aside our cynicism and self opposition for long enough, we will allow them and their achievements to inspire us all to know that anything is possible.

Recruitment. Is it a cost or an investment?

Perhaps we should ask G4S who are probably wondering whether they'll pay the ultimate price for getting things so wrong on the Olympic security contract. Depending on which report you read, they're gonna be in for between £30 and £50 million by the time they've covered their costs and compensated the government who will now have to draft in the military to keep the games safe. But it doesn't end there, G4S stock has plummeted since Friday and their brand (possibly even brand GB) has also taken a severe battering. With such challenges to overcome, it might be time for them to dust off operation "Prisoners on the loose" which saw them change their name from Group4 after they rose to notoriety in the mid 90's after a series of security blunders, some of which resulted in prisoners escaping whilst in their custody. How easily they appear to have shaken off a reputation for incompetence and win yet another high profile contract to balls up! What we don't know is on what basis they won the contract in the first place, perhaps they were doomed to fail from the beginning. I say that as someone who spent ten long years of my life navigating my way through extensive, unwieldy government procurement processes. More often then not suppliers are kept at arms length throughout the tendering process, so G4S were probably bidding blind, based on best guesses and estimates, rather then real consultancy and sound data. Submissions will have been scored against criteria which won't have made much sense, and was most probably heavily weighted around the cheapest deal. But surely recruitment ought to be different? It's not like buying commodities or stock. It really is an investment, it's an investment from both sides and needs to be taken seriously. I've lost count of all the "back to the floor" type programmes I've watched over the years which almost always conclude with a moment of epiphany from the top brass..."we have some amazing people breaking their balls for us in this company, but we treat them like crap and ask them to make do with resources that aren't up to the job. If we treat them better, provide them with the right tools, listen to and respect them, our customers will be the ones to benefit - and we can sit back and watch the profits rise" Good recruitment doesn't start and end with filling a vacancy. Good recruitment is about creating a great place to work. A place where employees are valued and supported to be their best. A client of ours summed this up nicely the other day when they told me their business isn't just about profit, it's about doing the right thing. And sometimes doing the right thing is about making investments whose returns can't be measured on the balance sheet. Your brand and reputation is what's really at stake when you decide to recruit, who could possibly argue that this is something not worth an investment. The trick is to select the right partners to work with, to come to a shared view on what will make the campaign successful, how success will be measured and a robust project plan to ensure everything can be delivered on time. To succeed is to realise the investment. To fail is to be left to count the cost.  

Test 2

The Chat w/c 25th June

Well, first week back after a fortnight travelling around Italy and Sicily, so I arrived on Monday morning with what was left of my tan after the onslaught of the British weather, and a spring in my step. Can't believe Lisa and Jon let me have two whole weeks off, and despite obviously being really busy, they'd managed to keep everything on track, which means one of two things, they're either pretty darn efficient, or I'm pretty darn superfluous!  We're as busy as ever but my priority this week has been the final push on a careers site we've been developing for a new client based in Dublin. Time's been tight, in fact we've managed to squeeze a twelve week build into a little over seven. And it's been a real team effort, with the client working just as hard as us to keep things moving on at pace. It's also put our business model to the test, and I'm pleased to say our fabulous Flock have had their nose to the grindstone and come up with the goods yet again - we owe lots of people lots of beer! Today I've been busy organising our award entries for the RBA's. It's been a bit of a milestone moment when I remember back to last year and the only eligible work we had to enter was the Chatter website. This year we have six separate entries across five categories including work for Skype, Global, Northgate, The Hyde Group and Arqiva. I promise to make a concerted effort to write some of them up as case studies so you can see for yourself some of the fab work we're producing for our equally fab clients. We're also gearing up for two competitive pitches which we're really looking forward to. We took part in a couple not long after we launched, more for experience rather then with a sense we really stood a chance. This time it's different, we've seen that our business really works. We have a great story to tell, lots of great work to show and support from our existing clients. It's gonna be tough but we really want these two so we're fighting to the end to win them... Rocky - The Eye of the Tiger

I had a ball at the Global Summertime Ball!

We’ve got some lovely clients. We really have, and they’ve supported us in all sorts of ways since we launched the business. But the highlight so far has to be the invite we received from Annabel from Global to the Summertime Ball at Wembley at the weekend. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but felt the need to brag to my 18 year niece who loves Example and Ed Sheeran, both of whom played a set. I haven’t actually told her that I was too busy drinking Pimms to watch Example (aka Elliot) but I’m already in her bad books, so might not dwell on that! I was told we had VIP passes, but if I’m honest I thought that we’d just get nicer seats and possibly a buffet. But the guys at Global really know how to put on a show. We were greeted in the VIP area with a glass of Pimms (don’t mind if I do) market stalls with BBQ’d kebabs, seafood, burgers, chicken and anything else you could possibly throw on a BBQ.  There was also a pizza stall, a salad stall, a strawberry stall and a big section in the middle with scones and cream cake. Not great if you’re trying to shed a few pounds for the holidays. While we were trying to find our bearings and figure out which acts we really wanted to watch and the ones we weren’t that keen on, our glasses were constantly topped up with pimms. There was also another room, with another bar as well as ‘pick’n’mix’ and candyfloss machine. The show opened with Coldplay who were great, and then a constant flow of acts from Kelly Clarkson, Flo Rida, Example, Pitbull, UsherThe Wanted, Jessie J and Ed Sheeran. There were also some nice surprises with Cover Drive and Lawson, Dizzy Rascal and Cheryl (who apparently has dropped the Cole). Well he’s a cheating bugger and I’d have got shot of the name a long time ago! Oh and the boys from Rizzle Kicks made a guest appearance with Jessie J. While we were rocking out (well swaying lightly is a better description) there were ushers constantly supplying us with Chinese food, mini fish and chips, beer and ice cream. I actually started the day by star spotting, after seeing Neville from Harry Potter on the train down from Leeds, so made a point of trying to get to double figures by the end of the day. Here’s who I managed to see. I didn’t get back 9, but thought I’d done alright. See if you can figure out who they are... [gallery link="file"]   For those Beliebers out there, we left before he came on stage, although we heard all the crazy 9 – 12 year olds screaming their heads off. Also missed Katy Perry, who accordingly to the 9 year old girl (Jessica) I met on the train back up North on Sunday morning was ‘so cool’ but she was disappointed that fireworks didn’t appear when she sang firework! A note to the artist team for next years show. Had a thoroughly enjoyable day, felt about 50, but drunk my bodyweight in Pimms and had a good old laugh with Annabel. Hope we do enough great stuff over the next 12 months to get another invite. Maybe I’ll have to pass my invite over to one of the boys. I hear Paul is a Belieber. Thanks to all the guys and gals at Global for being such great hosts.    

The Chat w/c 16th April

This week has been one of those non stop ones, with loads going on. You don't really stop for a minute, but at the same time don't feel like you're getting a lot done either. Lot's of tedious admin type tasks like doing our first year end for PAYE and National Insurance. (Rock n roll!) Recently i've been doing some research into video interviewing solutions for a client. The last time I looked into this there were very few solutions available, and those they were were pretty shabby...to the point that we'd even begun to kick around the idea of building our own. In the intervening time however, things have improved and suddenly there are several people tackling the problem. As you might expect it seems mainly suited to companies with large volume recruitment needs, where the first sift needs to be as automated as possible, while at the same time hopefully not depersonalising the candidate experience too much. On Monday, I had a demo from Sonru, who seem to have a pretty neat solution and we're talking with a client about possibly implementing it...so watch this space for more detail as and when something gets launched. Tuesday was a big day for us, with our clients from Northgate in for the first look at their new careers site, which is reaching the end of the development phase and almost ready for launch. It seemed to go down well and it was great to get their feedback to work in before we go live. The rest of the week went by in a bit of a blur of UA testing and amends, all logged in our trusty Pivotal Tracker account and initial discussions and briefings for a couple of new client prospects that are looking very promising. We did find a little bit of time-out on Thursday though, a few months back for a laugh, we all bought a Groupon voucher for a 1 hour Golf lesson at Calverley Golf Club. So joined by old friend of Chatter Ian Morgan...we trooped down there for what turned out to be a very enjoyable hour of terrible golf and even worse innuendo!

The Chat w/c 26th March - Birthday week

Genuinely can’t believe it’s been a year since we launched Chatter. This time last year we donned our gladrags and celebrated our launch with friends, family and prospective clients, with far too much music, alcohol and nibbles (well you can’t afford a full buffet when you’re a start up). And hasn’t time flown. We’d already planned for a big slap up meal to celebrate, but didn’t get carried too carried away at the start of ‘birthday week’ with 3 major projects underway and trips to Telford and London. Not to mention VAT return, year-end reporting and a visit from the ‘happy’ bank manager. Our thoughts are focused on the new financial year and the upcoming work in the pipeline, but we still managed to squeeze in a little time to produce an end of year video, print and send out some Chatter mugs and crack open a bottle of bubbly at San Carlos after a long old week. Thanks to everyone for their support in the last 12 months, roll on the next.

The Chat - w/e 25th March

After our eerily quiet January and February, March has continued as a frenetic pace! And it's really strange to think we're into the last couple of weeks of our first year in business. The week started with just Paul and I in the office, Lisa had the day off, having been to see The Civil Wars play live on Sunday night. We've been working on a campaign for Skype, which goes live next week. It's a small(ish) project but will include press, online, outdoor and a microsite so there's plenty of little details to get ironed out. It's also going to be an interesting experiment for me, as all the offline elements include a QR code. I've been sceptical for a long while about whether anyone actually scans them in practice, so we've tagged and tracked all of them separately...we'll let you know the results! On Tuesday we had a planning call with a clients development team to talk through how we'll be integrating the design and branding work we're doing for their careers site with their existing Applicant Tracking System and recruitment database. We've also been working on some refreshed designs for the HR section of  a client's intranet which are shaping up really well. Helping to create a coherent brand for HR across their business. On wednesday Lisa and Sally went down to Slough for dinner and a catch up with long-time friend of Chatter, Ian Ruddy and then experienced the pubs of Windsor after, propping up the bar with Her Maj no doubt...Lisa also gained a valuable insight into the graduate recruitment process at Akzo Nobel, by earwigging on their briefing in the hotel bar. Apparently, they do it quite well! On Thursday and Friday, Paul and I (still holding the fort) ended up busy all day working on a pair of careers site projects and various other things that crossed our desks...and completely failed to make it to the Yorkshire Mafia conference at the Royal Armouries...ah well, maybe next year. (We said that last year, oops!) And finally (as i'm writing these notes a little late), on Saturday I went to the official opening of the Bradford pond (or City Park as it's more properly known.) It was a really pleasant afternoon and evening, with plenty of entertainment laid on and a really great atmosphere and community spirit. Even the protest against the proposed demolition of the old Bradford Odeon went off peacefully and was really friendly.  

The Chat w/c 5th March

It's a tale of work, more work and oh a bit more work this week at Chatter. Those of you who know Lisa (and what it's like to work with her) will appreciate how hyperactive she gets when there's tonnes of stuff to get through. She's been bouncing around the place like a kid holding an empty bottle of Sunny D all week. The Flock are being put through their paces too and keep coming up trumps, so all in all there's been a real buzz about the place. I kicked off the week with a meeting with our friends at ResourceBank. We're busy supporting them with some of their client projects and we're also about to redesign their own corporate site. Meanwhile, Jon was planning for his appearance as keynote speaker at the Northern Housing Consortium Social Media conference which took place in the uber-cool surroundings of Manchester's Chill Factore. It was a great opportunity to talk to a bunch of people who focus on building organisational reputation, and get them thinking about how their employee experience can impact both positively and negatively on their social brand. Jon D was obviously his usual charming self judging from the fan fest that ensued across twitter. Read more about the social media conference in his blog. Lisa's busy delivering a number of key projects including the next phase of brand roll out for the Hyde Group. They've asked us to help improve the information architecture of their intranet, and ensure the identity we've created across their new careers and onboarding site is consistently rolled across that too. She's also working with a new client, an exciting communications business on a recruitment brief structured around an event; so it's a real mixed bag in terms of the media inventory, including some really smart digital collateral and outdoor media too. There's one or two other things on the boil but you'll have to wait a week or two before we can tell you more about them. And, as we get towards the end of our very first year, we've started to reflect on how far we've come. "This time last year" has been my favourite way to start sentences this week! It's crazy to think how much we've done and how many lovely new clients we get to spend our days with. We're planning some tweaks to the website in celebration of our first birthday and are getting stuck into case study writing so we can share more of our work - keep your eyes peeled! That's all for now!

Social Housing and Social Media hit the slopes

Appropriately for a social media conference, our invite to this one came via Twitter. One of our followers put us in touch with the organisers and suggested we might be interested in speaking (thanks @robmwright) So, yesterday morning saw me driving across the pennines to one of the more unusual conference venues, the Chill Factore at Trafford Park near Manchester. A range of delegates from social housing organisations across the midlands and the North came together to share their experiences with using social media to engage with their residents, suppliers and stakeholders and get some great ideas for how to take things forward. There was a great range of experience in the room, from those taking their first tentative steps in a brave new world, to those who were relatively old hands. The conference opened with a video message from housing minister Grant Shapps MP, who's pledged to answer questions tweeted to him during the day as follow up. My presentation was during the middle of the morning, and I was initially a little nervous as I was taking a slightly different tack and looking at using social for employee engagement. The idea being that engaged employees become advocates for your brand and can then help with your social efforts. I also took a more in depth look at LinkedIn and Google+ company profiles. It was pretty clear from a show of hands that many of the organisations present had either set up and then neglected their presences there or not looked at them at all. One delegate even grabbed an iPad while I was speaking and starting registering there and then. The session seemed to go down well, with some great reactions and follow up on Twitter: @nickatkin_hht: @welovechatter really enjoyed your session ad will be working through slidepack when available on@NHConsortium website tomorrow #NHCsocmed   @Jamoo1987: Emotionally engage people in recruitment says@welovechatter #nhcsocmed clever yet simple stuff.. @knowsleyhousing: Learning a lot about Google+ from @welovechatter #NHCsocmed #googletotakeontheworld @jenbostevo: I deleted my LinkedIn account last year as I didn't rate it, looks like @welovechatter have convinced me to resurrect it #NHCsocmed The rest of the day was really interesting too, a great session from @lizcable on listening online (and great to finally meet her in person having followed her on twitter for years), interesting to hear Nick the Chief Exec of Halton Housing Trust committing that they'll have eradicated company email by 2014 and a great fun joint presentation rounding off the day from Bromford housing who've partnered with local youth radio station KIC to better understand their younger market and pick up tips on how to engage using social...an unorthodox but clearly really successful approach. Here are the slides:

I'm just now waiting with bated breath for the speaker feedback sheets to come in...fingers crossed I acquitted myself well!    

The Chat w/c 27th Feb

The weather well and truly turned this week. From wintery mornings and icicles to sunshine and daffodils. Spring is on its way and we’re just a month away from our Chatter 1st birthday. Time flies and all that. After trekking around the country last week, it was good to be back in Yorkshire, and much needed given the number of projects we’re involved in at the moment. Some really diverse stuff too; career site builds, the development of an app for internal client use, L&D brand development, technology based recruitment campaign and even a couple of full colour press ads! The boys started the week running a training session in the Midlands, focused on helping one of our clients get to grips with how to use technology and social media alongside their direct hiring plans, and I took the opportunity to shy away from Monday rush hour traffic and work from home. Some of our Flockers were back from a well earned ski break and spent a few hours with us on this week going through a number of build and development jobs we’re working on with them. Great to sit down face-to-face and review objectives and think about creative solutions to meet them. Five heads are definitely better than one. Jon was knee deep in CMS training on Wednesday using a free online webinar tool http://www.anymeeting.com/ , and then up at the crack of dawn on Thursday for a trip up to Edinburgh, working with one of our old friends Ian Morgan at Hermes on an interesting web project for Edinburgh University. We’re all busy ‘doing the do’ at the moment, so we don’t have that much time to take breather and take stock, but Dom and Stu invited us out for a Christmas curry on Thursday. It took us over 2 months to get together, but when we eventually did, a good night was had by all. The beer didn’t flow as much as usual, but what do you expect on a school night. The week ended with a few coughs and splutters as I started with my annual cold, but I laboured it as much as possible throughout the day, to eek out as much sympathy as possible. Didn't work. Hope it clears for next week ;-(

The Chat - w/c 20th Feb 2012

A fairly quite start to the year seems to be coming to an end this week, we've had plenty of projects in the pipeline for a while and now some of them are starting to come to life following the post Christmas lull. The week started with a personal milestone, my 34th birthday *gulp* not quite as scary as 30 was...and another 6 years before I reach the really scary big four-oh. I kicked off the week with a client call to talk the spec for a careers site we'll be working over the next few weeks. It's for one of those major national brands you didn't know you knew. Say the name and people look slightly baffled, explain what they do and they suddenly realise they've seen the brand everywhere! I also spent some time on a demo call with a software supplier looking at their Onboarding software solution, we recently launched an onboarding site for the Hyde Group which has gone down really well so now i'm looking at technology solutions for any clients who want to heavily automate the form-filling and process side of onboarding, without losing the high touch, brand led emotional engagement that makes onboarding really valuable. On Wednesday we met up with a new potential member of the flock, and the evening saw me off to the latest Bettakultcha event. If you're anywhere near Leeds then it's worth getting along to one, it's an experience that has to be seen to be believed. And coincidentally I bumped into an old client at the next table, great to catch up! Since we launched Chatter we've been using Cotweet to manage our Twitter feed, it allowed us to team tweet, assign replies and tasks and avoid accidentally tweeting personal stuff to our company feed. But, all good things come to an end. Following their accquisition by ExactTarget they've wound down the product and replaced it with something they refuse to give a price for unless you call them...so we've been looking at alternatives, current favourite is Sproutsocial. So another busy week and set to get busier...!

The Chat - w/c 13th Feb 2012

Can't believe it's the middle of February already, that's just crazy. It's either down to the supermarkets stocking their Easter promotions on New Year's Day, or being so ruddy busy that's to blame for the year spinning by so quickly. This week's been a good one, it started as per usual with the weekly kick off meeting, a chance to chat through the various projects, proposals and opportunities we've got on the cards over the coming week, and mop up on anything we didn't get around to the week before. Monday was also the day we'd pencilled in to say "Bon Voyage" to one of our old colleagues Ellen Scales - she left Blighty on Thursday bound for a new life Down Under. Over lunch there was frivolous talk of establishing a Chatter Sydney office, but the others went cold on the concept when I described what a typical day at work might include were I to set things up, not sure what their problem was, I reckon if there's so much beach and sunshine to be had, it's a shame to miss it by sitting in an office all day! Tuesday saw Jon and I hightailing it up the A1 to kick off a web build project with a new client. They're going from a standing start, just a static page of careers content on their corporate site at the moment, and having recently launched a new national brand, there's a fair bit of recruitment on the horizon, so we're looking at building something really appealing, a couple of bells and whistles here and there, along with plenty of SEO and a solid digital attraction plan. Should be good. And whilst we were out, Pearson managed to bag herself a meeting with a majorly iconic TV brand - thanks to a little help from one of our friends at Global who had been singing our praises! Wednesday was mammouth, three meetings pretty much back to back in Edinburgh, one of my favourite cities in the entire world. All new business prospects, but all of them old friends too, so a good mix of catching up and open discussions about how we might work together in the future. We managed to fit in lunch at Sygn, arguably the best R&B toting eatery in the city, which gave Lisa the chance to practice her smoking by the bins look. It was a long old day and by the time we were nearing Leeds on the train in the dead of night, we were jaded. The excitement of winning the Hangman tournament was the final nail in the coffin! I wasn't quite so fed up as I looked though..    Thursday was spent back at our desks, catching up and following up for me and Jon, whilst Lisa had cunningly organised to be on holiday, so managed to bag herself a lie in. And we've seen hide nor hair of Ms Moore who's busy setting up an exciting new furniture restoration business, though we're looking forward to welcoming her back once we get the green light on one or two major projects in the pipeline. Friday was Mother Ainley's birthday so after a morning's hard graft, I got to spend lunchtime with my nearest and dearest at the local pub for a slap up lunch. Perfect end to the week!     

The Chat w/c 6th February

An absolutely bitter start to the week which saw me hotfooting it down to London to run a series of workshops with a client to review the way in which they provide HR information to their employees. Luckily the snow that fell over the weekend, didn't disrupt anything. There was still snow on the group when I landed at Borough which you don't often see. The groups were really well attended, the people were well engaged and helped to deliver some great insight into the good, the bad and the ugly (or less pretty in their case).

Back at my desk on Tuesday for a series of conference calls with two new potential clients. A traditional recruitment brief with a twist to recruit some seriously specialised boys and gals in London, and another to help a well known financial institution present their new HR operating model to the wider business. Jon was invited to speak at the Hireserve User Group session on Wednesday, affectionately knows as HUG and braved the cold for a 6.15am train to Reading. We’d also spent some time crafting an introductory video to our services (I say we, but I mean Paul and Jon), which looked great and was well received on the day. There were a few positive tweets from the day too. So all good stuff. We’re working closely with Omni on a number of initiatives for the Hyde Group and the lovely people at Omni invited me and Simone (one of our Flock) out for a meal on Wednesday night at Rosso in Manchester. Beautiful setting, but I think we were all a bit disappointed with the food and the service. Still had a great night though, topped off by seeing the lovely (albeit incredibly young) Harry Styles. He was celebrating his 18th birthday. And yes we got a picture for one of our clients Emma. She said it was for her 10 year old daughter but I’m not so sure. Luckily my meeting in Altrincham the following day was pushed back to 10am, so it wasn’t too much of a struggle to get there in time. The latter part of the week was spent finalising a couple of proposals and also dragging Jon out to Holmfirth to sort out some of my personal IT issues. As I often say, everyone needs a ‘Jon’ in their life.

Congratulations! You got the job. That'll be £25.

Most of the work we do here at at Chatter concerns helping our clients provide a great candidate experience for everyone who applies for a job with them. Whether successful or unsuccessful, helping to build a positive, useful employer brand which will become an asset. We often then spend even more time ensuring that the promises that are made during the recruitment process are realistic and achievable, so that the lucky candidate offered the job hopefully finds that by the time they've completed the onboarding process they're emotionally engaged with the new employer, fired up and ready to hit the ground running on their first day, power through their first week and be completely settled in over the first few months.

All which underlines quite how surprised I was this saturday morning while listening to the dulcet tones of Paul Lewis on Radio 4's Moneybox (waiting for The News Quiz to start and eating a late breakfast). They were highlighting a practice several listeners have alerted them to, particularly in the aviation industry. It appears that Virgin Atlantic (and some of their competitors) make it standard practice that candidates offered a role are then approached by a 3rd party agency to do a criminal and employment background check, which doesn't proceed until the candidate pays £25! They've no doubt spent time attracting and recruiting these people, only to then make the candidate pay from their own pocket for the part of the process which has a tacit subtext of "we don't trust you", what a great way to make them feel engaged with their new employer! 

To their credit, some of the competitors did say that they refund the fee on the candidates first day, which is better than nothing I suppose. At this point you're probably that the aviation industry is a special case, after all we're all made to jump through hoops every time we get on a plane, so surely employee security checks are vital? Except that Virgin are levying this fee on staff who are destined never to leave the ground...they work in the call centre. Really not the kind of experience you'd expect from Mr Branson is it, a security check is just one of the costs of doing business. Offloading onto the candidate really doesn't reflect well on anybody.

The Chat w/c 23rd Jan

Jon here, my turn to write this weeks Chat and it's been a busy one as usual. In the past week and a bit I've written about 10,500 words of proposals for client web projects for which we've also done some really lovely creative (as always, thanks to the Flock). Lisa has been down to London and Slough at a series of meetings with friends new and old, which all went really well. Paul's also been well travelled, before he was struck down with gastric flu on Wednesday.

He's spent the rest of the week feeling terrible, it might be the flu, or it might be the diet of daytime television he's been subjected to. Lisa and I have begun the very early stages of scoping around an intranet project, and i'm preparing to speak at the forthcoming Hireserve User Group meeting down in Reading. We'll be telling them all about the work we did with Global Radio to ensure that their tone of voice and obsession with a great candidate experience was woven into the whole candidate journey.

Today, I've been putting the finishing touches to our email newsletter, so sign up now if you haven't already and expect to see if hit your inboxes soon and laying the groundwork for some video content we'll be releasing over the next few months so keep an eye out for that. And finally, I rounded off the week with my first FaceTime video call. We've used Skype to videoconference a lot since we started Chatter, but this was the first time using Apple's Facetime software and it worked really nicely. The call was a preparatory session for a social media event we're speaking at for the Northern Housing Consortium in March which we're really looking forward to. Have a good weekend everyone...!

Moving on up or keeping you down: Social mobility & recruitment dodgy dealing in the news.

I saw an interesting convergence of news stories from both the UK and across the pond this week, both of which had a recruitment spin to them... About a fortnight ago, here in the UK, our Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg launched the government's "Business Compact" on social mobility. There's a range of provisions involved in the scheme, a lot of them aimed at reducing the impact of a "jobs for the boys" and "who you know, not what you know" culture in UK recruitment. There's material to help teachers and communities to raise aspirations in schools. Amusingly for those who've followed the stories about Nick Clegg's own rise to power there's guidelines on broadening opportunities for young people to gain work experience without needing to know someone "on the inside" and some provision to ensure that internships are open and transparent and paid at least minimum wage or expenses. So far so good, and over 100 companies have already signed up to be part of it, including big names like HSBC, Tesco, Asda, Coca Cola and BP. But it was the final provision mentioned in the press release that really jumped out at me: "recruit fairly and without discrimination, using application forms that don’t allow candidates to be screened out because they went to the wrong school or come from a different ethnic group (including through using name-blank and school-blank applications where appropriate)."

It's a great idea, and when you start to unpick it, any initial objections around needing to identify candidates are easily debunked. But from a technological point of view (given that most applications processes these days are done online and/or managed electronically) it becomes a little trickier. Should we actually not ask for name and school/university details at all on the application? Or do we ask for them, but assure the candidate they'll be hidden from the hiring manager during the early stages of selection (in much the same way as Equal Opportunities info is kept separate). At some point the hiring manager is going to need to know the information, you can't very well invite and greet "candidate 123456" at an interview without seeming a little odd. And given the great drive there is among most organisations we work with to build their employer brand, improve the candidate experience and offer a more personal service it's hard to see exactly how to do this anonymously.

A lot of recruiters are moving to a more CRM (Candidate Relationship Management) led approach, but it's much harder to build a connection (or source from social networks like LinkedIn) when you're actively trying to avoid indirect discrimination. I'm sure the more enlightened ATS providers will figure out some kind of workaround in short order (although in the past I've found making even the smallest changes in some systems fraught or nigh on impossible!) and one vendor I've spoken to tells me it should be an easy fix, for them at least. But is all this a storm in a teacup? And do organisations really need (and need to be seen to) to work on avoiding this kind of name/age/background based discrimination by their hiring managers.... Well, that leads us neatly across the Atlantic to the other story that caught my eye. A story which suggests that even the kind of big names you'd expect to be whiter than white in their recruiting and hiring practices may not be quite as straightforward as you'd think... This coming week, a class action lawsuit will be heard in San Jose, which makes some pretty damning allegations and to which some pretty interesting evidence has been submitted (and subsequently released for public scrutiny). In a nutshell, it's alleged that Google, Apple, Pixar, Lucasfilm, Adobe, Intel, and Intuit conspired to keep labour costs low, prevent employee mobility between companies and limit the potential of employees to negotiate higher salaries.

The following allegations have been made: - That the companies actively agreed not to poach employees from each other. - Agreed not to enter bidding wars for talent with each other and most gob-smacking of all: - They agreed not to simply ignore applications from candidates employed at each others businesses and not offer them roles AND notify their current employer that they were trying to switch jobs! One piece of evidence alleges that knowledge of these arrangements went right to the top, including Steve Jobs himself. If the class action is successful then damages could be paid to any salaried employee of any of the companies throughout a four year period. We'll definitely be keeping an eye on this one...!

The Chat w/c 16th January

Back with a couple of weeks under my belt from a THREE WEEK break (as I keep being reminded). It’s been a heady combination of remembering how to type and getting myself dressed by a decent hour...Sorry, but Christmas in Dubai was awesome.  Not exactly a white Christmas...unless you count the ice in my G&T...but you can’t beat a bit of sun on your back in wintertime... So, back to earth and back at it with a meeting to present a Rewards proposal for a client aimed at bringing together their entire Rewards proposition - with a sensible phased approach.  It was also great to have some corporate objectives to underpin our work and give us something concrete to measure. We’ve done the preparatory branding work so this will be really satisfying to bring it all together.

Lisa and Paul have been on planes trains and automobiles (well trains anyway) to far flung places like Edinburgh and Slough meeting old friends and new.  In among their meetings they found time to check out the local hostelries and recommended Sygn in Edinburgh to anyone venturing  north of the border anytime soon... Big congratulations are due to our friends at Penna for scoping the honours at the RADS on Thursday. It seemed like it was quite a night (well judging by the size of hangover reports on Friday anyway) and some well deserved letting down of hair for some hard work in a tough climate. 2012 for Chatter? Let’s see. The week rounded off nicely with a new contact popping in for a chat - a good exchange of views and updates all round - exactly the kinds of discussions we like to have.  And picking up with some old friends to add to our growing flock - good job cos we’re busying ourselves and ready for some action to start the new year!

The Chat - w/c 9th Jan

This week kicked off with an early morning train to London for Lisa and I. We were meeting a client for lunch at the rather trendy Hix Oyster & Chop House near Smithfield Market, one of a few such meetings we weren't able to fit in before Christmas which is playing havoc with the healthy eating regime! Whilst this year has started off more gently then last year ended, things are already picking up, including a press ad in the Daily Telegraph, which is always jolly in a world where print advertising is no longer considered to be de rigueur.   On Tuesday the whole team (minus Sal) were across at the Marriott near Worsley to host a workshop session with a new client who we're going to be working with to develop their internal and external websites, before helping them to build and promote their brand more widely.

They're a great bunch of people and like so many of the organisations we work with, do some really great stuff for their clients. So armed with three or four proposals to write, we headed back to the office to get the ball rolling. Sal's back from holiday so by Thursday we were a full compliment again. Sounds like Christmas and New Year in Dubai is quite the ticket; and the tan is enough to make you sick. Looking ahead, it's already  looking like things are going to be pretty busy with a mixture of existing clients and some brand spanking new ones too. And with talk of an Chatter 80's night out soon, all is well with the world!        

The Chat w/c 2nd Jan 2012

It was a crazy rush to the Christmas finishing line this year. Best laid plans and all that. For as long as I can remember I’ve had this utopian view that there would be a nice wind down to Christmas, an opportunity to Christmas shop, wrap all the pressies up in time, play Santa with the extended family as well as eat, drink and be merry, but with two new onboarding portals about to be launched for Hyde Housing, a large digital attraction plan for a global business and a microsite for a well known yoghurt brand it was all a bit manic before the break. We did find time to get down and jiggy at the Write Research Company christmas bash and I sampled by first ever Jager bomb! [caption id="attachment_740" align="alignnone" width="300" caption=""think I'm a bit old for these""][/caption] We were spread far and wide this Xmas. Jon flew out to Reykjavik on the 23rd for Christmas, and had a fab time. You can check out his report on Trip Advisor. Sally opted for Dubai from the 21st for a family Xmas with her sis who’s recently upped sticks to move with her hubby who’s a Sky News Correspondent. Paul a I stayed close to home (not each others, I hasten to add), but before we’d clocked off for Chrimbo, we managed to grab a bite to eat at Gaucho’s in Leeds and met up with a few ‘flockers’ at Oporto’s. If you like steak and haven’t been to Gaucho’s give it a go. The cocktails and the wine menu was great, but the Tira De Ancho a spiral cut slow grilled piece of Rump with chimichurri was amazing. It’s now 2012 and it’s been a nice introduction back into work this week.

There’s lots going on, but it hasn’t started as crazy as it ended, which has helped us all clear the decks, finish off proposals and prepare for the next few weeks. I even found a little time to change my ringtone, which has been bugging the boys for the last 10 months. It’s not a cheery tune though. Joy Division ‘love will tear us apart’. Classic. We’re all on a health kick too, which means the left over chocs in the office are still in place, and the gym memberships are getting some use at last. With trips to London, York and Edinburgh in the next week or so, we’re hoping 2012 will be a good year for Chatter, and in a few more months we can mark our 1st Birthday. Not bad for a business which set up in a recession, with no money and no clients, just an idea. Happy New Year everyone. Let's hope it's a good one.

A very merry Chat - w/c 19th December 2011

Twas the last day of work and throughout HQ We're reet looking forward to a festive drink or two We've worked hard all year, had lots of success Launched seven new web sites and mastered wordpress.   Now it's Christmas time, we must stop and think To remember how it all started. To raise a glass - chink! To thank our lovely clients, to thank our amazing flock Let's hope it all continues. We never want it to stop.   So merry Christmas everybody. Have a happy new year. Drink and make merry, be full of good cheer.   See the making of our Christmas card                

The Chat - w/c 5th December

This week started with a focus on clearing the decks ahead of our trip to Amsterdam at the end of the week. So once we'd completed the first round of research we're undertaking to inform a rewards programme for one client, and met with another to discuss an exciting recruitment project for a brand new division launching early next year, we made ready for our jaunt to the Netherlands. The day started very early on Thursday morning as the taxi arrived to take us to Leeds And Bradford International Airport (as a former client we often sniggered when they were referred to by their unfortunate acronym). And once we'd been frisked, x-rayed and patted down, we headed straight to the bar for a pint. Yes it was still well short of 7am - but someone has to uphold the stereotypes. Typically the Jet2 flight was crowded with groups of festive fun seekers, and by the time we arrived at Schipol we'd finally started to wake up. A quick train ride from the airport and we emerged into the crisp fresh Amsterdam air.

As an Amsterdam virgin, the many and varied forms of traffic travelling simultaneously towards us from every direction took some getting used to. And once we dumped the bags, we headed out for some brekkie. We feasted on eggs and bacon with side orders of french toast and lashings of maple syrup; it set us up nicely for a day in the pub. Don't get me wrong, we made a valiant effort to do stuff, we even walked in the opposite direction to the pub at one point in search of an ice rink that was unfortunately closed, in the end we simply had to accept that Amsterdam on the second Thursday in December had little else to offer us but large cold beers in warm cozy bars. And sporting an array of Netherlandic-type tashes, we settled in for the long haul. With Lisa refusing to eat again until dinner, and Sally following suit, they were both slightly worse for wear by the time we made it back to the hotel for a quick change. Eventually, half an hour later than billed, we made it to the restaurant. In the spirit of social media, we'd relied on Tripadvisor to help us select the best eatery in town and Brasserie Vlaming had number two billing in the whole of Amsterdam. A great little place with plenty to choose from, and good service to boot. As the wine continued to flow it all got too much for Sal so she rounded the evening off with a little nap at the table - bless! The fact we all had differing agenda's for the next day clearly signalled that the rest of them had had enough of my itinerary, so we decided to spend our time pursuing our individual pleasures.

For Jon that meant a morning tucking into waffles and surfing the net in a coffee shop, Lisa and Sally were spotted worshipping at the altar of retail and I took a wander to the Anne Frank museum - being the son of a History and Geography teacher it just doesn't seem like a holiday unless I visit something of cultural note! It's a fab museum though. Authentically restored but left completely unfurnished, it's a really evocative place and well worth a visit . After a quick tour of the red light district (which just happened to be behind our hotel) it was time to say goodbye to Amsterdam and head back to sunny Yorkshire. We stopped briefly to buy tulips and a pair of Prada sunglasses at the airport - don't ask! A thoroughly enjoyable couple of days. More photo's available on our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/welovechatter

The Chat - w/c 20th November

This week kicked off as busily as ever with Paul and Lisa working on a tender and new business proposals and on Monday a visit from our dealer. Dealer in confectionary that is, but the way we get through chocolate in this place is as if it's an addictive illicit substance. Talking through options for spreading a little Christmas cheer next month. On Wednesday Lisa and Paul went over to speak to a potential new client about the branding, comms and website. While I held the fort back at Chatter HQ, It's been a busy time back at the ranch, working on some social media guidelines, writing a technical user guide for some software and preparing for Thursdays big meeting down in that London.

The meeting was with our good friends at Global, as a wash up session following the launch of their new careers site. It's been a great project to work on, not without its challenges but great fun nonetheless. So having gathered feedback from the whole team, we jumped on the train at Leeds for the trip south, having managed to grab First Class tickets for only a few quid more than Standard Class. So we settled back to enjoy the free drinks, wifi and pie and chips for lunch. (Paul would like to point out that his was a diet pie and chips as he didn't eat the pastry)

The washup meeting itself was a really useful session and afterwards we talked through some possible future prospects on the newly refurbished roof terrace at Global in Leicester Square...a little chilly in the early evening air (guess who didn't bring a coat!) but who can argue with a view that's like a London landmarks picture postcard. So, back to Friday and the end of another week at Chatter, and just me in the office today holding the fort. Peace and quiet (apart from BBC 6Music in the background) as we work on our next two website launches. No rest for the wicked eh...

The Chat - w/c 14th November

I started Monday thinking about Friday and what to do in preparation for our kick off meeting with our most adventurous project yet. Going under the working title Project Anderton, it’s a nod to Minority Report and all those sexy touch screens they use...Spent a lot of Monday in prep mode and working out how to get the very best out of the few hours where we had all the right brains in the room to extract information and assemble it into the Information Architecture (our clever development partners will bring some order to this).

I made a note to self at our Monday “Weekly KOM” meeting that these get togethers are getting more and more packed - and it’s not small stuff either - some chunky research, strategic planning as well as full on delivery on the go - we really do help businesses make a difference through people. I took a bit of a break on Tuesday and found myself London bound for some R&R - mooching around Liberty (fave shop in London) then on to Anthropologie (fave shop in the US and now it’s over here : ) I had a great day - more than can be said for Lisa’s dog Yoshi. Poor thing found himself at the Vet for a bit of “life changing” surgery - no happy families for you Yoshi, I’m afraid....

A few quid lighter (and no doubt a few pounds heavier after my tea at Fortnum’s) I was back at it on Wednesday with more focus on Friday as well as looking forward to our evening activity...shooting the inaugural Chatter Christmas card! It was a thoroughly retro affair - although we were true professionals holding cold tea in whisky glasses and olive flavoured water in Martini glasses to keep us focused on Christmas sparkle (and not glassy eyed by the end of the night). We’ll let you in on the secret in December...but we think you’ll enjoy it. And not a Jimmy Savile wig in sight!

Thursday was a busy day at Chatter HQ. A revolving door of visitors and Flock members, spotting opportunities, EVP proposal discussions and generally there was a real buzz all day (couldn’t even hear the radio). We’re getting stuck in to some major proposals for SEO and Pay Per Click campaigns and are seeking out the best of the best to help us do it.

Friday came at last - kick off time. Didn’t start that well with a delayed Lisa - with a variation on the “Dog ate my homework” theme...More of a “Yoshi ate something that violently disagreed with his upset internal systems following his op” and deposited from his rear end at high velocity all over the wall and floor. Or maybe it was just his way of getting the humans back...

After about four hours of project Anderton kick off, we had what we needed and a rough plan to take us through the next week, so it’s all actions stations. I felt like I deserved the Kir Royale Paul bought at Epernay in Leeds before hitting the Beer Keller in Millennium Square and a now traditional Barkers reunion. After beer and sausage (does it get any better?) I’m pleased to report Lisa, Paul and Jon were living the Chatter values to the end - the last to leave - and making it home by a respectable 3.30am.

The Chat w/c 7th November

Started the week after a flurry of cleaning over the weekend, which after 3 months of builders, electricians and joiners trailing all sorts of crap into my house, was really therapeutic. I even found time to bake one of Jamie’s creations his St Clements cake and it was a triumph (even if I do say so myself) although I was slightly disappointed that the entire Chatter gang decided they were going to have a good week this week so I ended up sharing the wares with our neighbours at Jump.

Monday kicked off with our monthly partners meeting, and you often forget when you’re deep in client work and delivery, how important it is to take a deep breath and look at how far you’ve come and what the future holds for the business in the forthcoming months. Refreshingly we’re sticking to our values resolutely. Hardworking is a given for a new business, but we are being direct and honest with our clients and our flock, although due to the sheer amount of work we’ve been doing, we haven’t been as sociable as we would like. But with a Barkers reunion planned for next week and our Chatter trip to Amsterdam for our Xmas soiree, this is soon to be rectified.

We also took time out to attend the Cream Awards at Park Plaza. We didn’t enter anything, but wanted to chat to like-minded businesses and creatives to see what’s going on in Leeds in this space. Also good opportunity to chat to The Drum and explore some potential additions to The Flock. Also met some old friends from Home. It was an odd set up if we're honest for an awards and not sure it'll catch on but with the DADI's on Friday maybe this was the calm before the storm. One of our projects went live this week for Hyde Housing Association  hot on the heels of the brand development toolkit and tone of voice guidelines we’ve been working on with them. They’re a great bunch of people who are so very ‘Chatter’ in their working style. Also been great to work with Simone Burgon again, as she embarks on her own consultancy business. And with more projects in full swing including onboarding portals for employees and managers, long may it continue.

Myself and Paul also had one of the most challenging meetings of my life this week with a potential client. In a good way of course wink We survived and hopefully we’ll be able to blow their socks off with our thinking, but time will tell.

Next week promises to be good fun with a photoshoot planned for our Xmas Card. It's all secret squirrel at the moment, but Sal is working on wardrobe and props as we speak.

The Chat w/c 24th October

It's been a couple of weeks since we updated the Chat - oops! What with Pearson jetting off to sunnier climbs last week, there's been no-one around to nag us into writing it; and to be honest, lots of other things happening have kept us busy too! Earlier in the month Lisa and I did a mini tour of the Midlands and South. We caught up with old friends, met some new ones and came away with one or two projects to deliver and another one simmering away on the back burner. With a night to kill in London between meetings, we ate at Marco Pierre White's steak and ale house which was lovely.

Sally's been busy too, working with one of our newest clients, the Shepherd Group, developing a brand and identity to revitalise an employee initiative they're planning to re-launch early in the new year. I have to say the concepts were the bees knees - and Shepherd selected one of our favourites - happy days. Jon has an increasing number of digital builds to marshall, everything from careers sites, on-boarding portals and rewards sites, I even snuck in a cheeky campaign site, which despite being turned around in just over 24hrs, looked fab and is already getting great feedback from the client. We can't wait to formally launch our first big careers site, scheduled now for next week.

We're also edging closer to kicking off our Minority Report style installation for a major technology client. Having made it through the contract negotiations stage, we're about to get creative. Sally's at the helm and she's busy preparing for the pre-prod meeting scheduled for the week after next. It's a truly exciting and innovative project. We rounded off the week with lunch at Carluccio's to celebrate Lisa and Sally's birthdays. Whilst we never need much of an excuse for a slap-up lunch, it's been a while so we made the most of it!

New from LinkedIn: company status updates, great news for employers…

Over the past six months we've worked with several clients to help them put in place a social media strategy around the attraction and recruitment efforts. We've run training workshops, written social media guidelines and built out social channels for them to populate with content. During all these projects we've tended to focus on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as principal channels. But in terms of being able to produce employer branded content Facebook has always held the lead, with plenty of opportunities to produce content and custom branded tabs. You'd expect LinkedIn to be the no-brainer site to use, but until very recently the opportunities to build your employer brand have been few and far between. Yes, you can claim ownership of your company page, fill out some basic details, add some copy and even create a product showcase but it's been very difficult to start to build a community around your company page, or to start conversations with an interested community of candidates. (There's a paid for upgrade to the Company page which makes it a more compelling proposition, but to be honest, for most of our clients it's been somewhat priced out of their reach.) So, having said all that...what's changed? Well a few months ago, LinkedIn added the ability to "Follow" a company page. For a long time there's not been much to reward your followers, other than quicker access to your company page through a dropdown of their followed companies. But as of last week, company pages can now issue status updates. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMknZutnVWE&w=500] This means that if you have a following, you can now keep them up to date with your latest developments and seed messages into their news feeds (and potentially those of the rest of their network, through likes and comments) which greatly improves the potential reach of your company page and begins to move it away from being just another profile page, into a much more powerful social tool. It also makes it much more important for a trusted team within HR or Marketing to claim and lock down access to the page. By default, any employee can edit or post to a company page, but the status update feature isn't enabled until you lock down the page and designate specific users who are allowed to administrate it and speak with the voice of the company. It also makes me very pleased that the careers site we're about to release for one of our clients has the LinkedIn insider tool featured on its homepage. Initially we'd seen this as a great way for users to network and generate reverse referrals into the company from people they already knew working there. But the Insider widget also features a prominent Follow button, and our client already has a following of 1600 and growing. The addition of status updates means they've just gained a new audience, who can be reached in a professional and career focused environment...result! If you're interested in using LinkedIn to engage with your candidate audience, why not get in touch, we'd love to catch up...

The Chat - w/c 3rd October

Busy times here at Chatter and getting busier, with Paul and Lisa making an epic tour of the South next week. They've had their inoculations and got their visas. This week I've spent a good chunk of time debugging, browser testing and doing final checks on Project Atlas, the careers site we're hopeful will launch next week. Watch this space for news on that one. We're also talking to a client about their performance management and appraisal scheme, so Monday saw me jump onto a Skype call with the guys at Rypple to get a better handle on their offer.

On Tuesday we all stayed behind after work (not because we were in trouble) to take part in an SEO workshop and look at how we can more proactively build it into our future projects and work more closely with one of flock members who's a full time SEO guru. grin Meanwhile Lisa and Paul have been busily working with one of our clients to help them prepare their recruitment and engagement strategy to unveil at a meeting next week. Lisa and I have been planning and wire framing not one, not two, but three websites for our housing client which touch recruiting, onboarding and induction. And finally, I've spent some delightful hours checking over and submitting our second VAT return (didn't that come round quickly!) And now, it's beer o'clock...cheers!

The Chat w/c 26th Sept

We started the week with anticipation in the air. With a client's career site about to go live and the RBA awards around the corner, it was a manic week all round. Not least because I'd been trying outfits on over the weekend, to figure out whether the last few weeks at the gym had made any difference at all. The week started with a couple of flock meetings, discussions around social marketing and how Chatter might be able to support in this space, given our previous experience. We also prepped for a trip to London to help one of our clients think about their performance management process and how best to brand and communicate this for their internal population. The work and projects are coming in fast and furious which is just amazing and the client base is expanding with some great household names (more in the following weeks). We also have some good meetings in the diary for next week in Telford, London and Reading, so it's full on. The fact that Sally has agreed to continue to work with us into 2012 (and beyond we hope) helps us deliver some great thinking and solutions for our clients, with the strength in depth to make it work. On the home front, we've been extending the house. I think I have a touch of OCD, and can't get over the amount of dust which seems to be swirling around my house. Feel a bit guilty that I can't lend my husband a hand at the moment, but clients come first (that's what I tell him anyway). When Thursday came and the day of the RBA's I was glad to get out of the house/office, get glammed up and enjoy the evening, not before we met up with an old colleague and potential client though. Jon made a good call and booked us into a great apartment near Piccadilly, so we started the night a little early. It was a bit of a strange night though. I think we were all expecting a comedian to start the proceedings, but The Drum opted for a classical female singer, who to be fair was a great singer and brave to stand up on stage and do her stuff, but most people were looking around the room waiting for the punchline. Nevertheless, the event had a great turn out, and although we didn't officially pick up an award for item of best self promotion we did get a commendation. Not bad for a people comms business which set up in a recession 6 months ago. The highlight of the night however has to be the stint in Chinese Charlies Karaoke in Manchester until 4am. [gallery link="file"]   I was a little concerned that I'd be too hungover for the weekend because I've also been frantically planning a surprise Ruby Wedding party for my folks and the big event happened on Saturday 1st. They didn't have a clue, and the fact that my Uncle's band played made it even more special. Great end to a good week. Although it did remind me of my big 40th next year...eek.    

The Chat - w/c 19th Sept

Back to earth with a bump for me, after a week in Sitges with nothing to do but lie back and soak up the sun and recharge my batteries. We kicked the week off at the usual Chatter breakneck pace with our regular weekly meeting where Lisa and Paul filled me in on a weeks worth of gossip, news and new client wins (always nice to come back to!) The early part of the week saw me pretending to be a hacker in bad early 80's action movie, with multiple terminal windows open on my mac and glowing green code scrolling past as I typed various incantations. I'd like to say we were hacking the Pentagon, but I was actually just reconfiguring a web server for the careers site project that launches this week to make sure it meets our clients security requirements. But it was good to refresh my memory on configuring Apache and yes I'm aware how tragic the preceding paragraph sounds! grin On Tuesday, Lisa and Sally facilitated a session with a client looking at their employer brand and identity and how they might take it forward. Wednesday saw us kicking off the creative brief and wireframing process for another web project, this time for a large housing association, as well as a catch up with our SEO guru and Lisa out for dinner with an old friend of Chatter. Meanwhile Paul has been prepping for a great new business opportunity in conjunction with our friends at Write Research Company, and working really hard on insight and online presence audits for 2 other clients. And suddenly, it's Friday. Usually the week after a holiday is a bit manic, but i'm back on top of the mountain of emails, the Chatter finances are squared up and all the paperwork is done. I've even had a nice chat with the people at HMRC. (Not often those words are used in a sentence together!) and it feels like we're all ready for a much deserved Friday pint. Cheers!

Facebook Timeline: More big changes to your profile, coming next week.

UPDATE (19/12/11) - As you probably realised soon after we wrote this, Facebook then sat on the launch of Timeline while they ironed out a few bugs. It's available now for anyone to enable on their profile by going to: https://www.facebook.com/about/timeline A few weeks back when the Google+ field trial launched, we speculated that Facebook might have some catching up to do. And now in the week that Google+ finally became available to all comers, Facebook has launched a string of new features. The first few sparking a storm of complaint and controversy and culminating in a whole new look for the Facebook Profile called Timeline. The new Timeline profile view, with a large cover image. The small changes that have been made in the past couple of weeks included the ability to subscribe to a users updates without actually connecting them with as a friend, better per post privacy (just like Google+) and more visibly a new mini stream of latest updates in the top right corner of the chat sidebar. Typically users of social networks tend to be resistant to change, they know what they like and can often take a while to see the value of new features. And news feeds have been abuzz with users expressing how much they hate the new status feed and that it just duplicates their existing news feed. However, it starts to make a lot more sense in the light of the new Timeline view, which makes the news feed a lot less prominent in the profile, making the sidebar updates suddenly a lot more useful. As I write the Timeline view is only available to Facebook Developers, but will begin roll out to everyone next Friday (expect a wave of status updates from happy and less happy friends at that point!)

So what's this Timeline view all about then?

Facebook seem to be trying to move users toward seeing their profile less as a news feed of the here and now, and more as a scrapbook. One central place to store memories, photos and stories. They're even encouraging users to start filling that timeline out from before Facebook even existed...even as far back as the users birth! (So those cutesy profiles friends setup for their newborns suddenly make a lot more sense too.) The new features that make up the timeline are the Cover, Profile Apps, Life Events and Widescreen. Let's take a look at each in turn...

The Cover

Probably the most obvious change when you first convert to the Timeline view is the very large cover image that appears at the top of your profile. You can use any existing image Facebook has of you, or upload a new one, and there are some basic tools for aligning the image to take a landscape slice out to fit the space available. Over the next few weeks we're likely to see some really creative uses of this space, in the same way that users took to the 5 picture gallery on the old profile to build creative mosaics.

Life Events

The update also sees a new kind of status update, which seems specifically designed to encourage users to treat their profile more like a personal living history or lifestream (to use a horrible buzzword). Life Events create an enormous box in your timeline as you might expect for something that represents a significant milestone. Life event categories include Work (Graduation, Jobs, Military Service), Family (Engagements, Marriage, Childbirth, Pets, Bereavement!), Living (Moving house, buying a house, roommates, cars), Health (Breaking a bone! Surgery, Getting well from an illness) and finally Milestones (Learning a language, Getting a licence, Travel and Awards).

Widescreen View

By default the timeline runs down the middle of your profile, with status update and other speech bubbles sprouting off it to the left and right. However, each panel when hovered over has a star button, which when clicked makes that update a featured one. This puts it into widescreen view, taking up the full width of the profile. A great way to pull out the big events and make them more obvious.

Profile Apps

Where things get really interesting though (at least for a geek like me) is the new class of Facebook Apps that are part of the timeline profile format. As always your Friends, Photos, Videos and so on are mini apps. They're joined by a new Map app, which shows all of your location checkins and a whole raft of third-party apps which hook into the Facebook Open Graph to show actions you've taken elsewhere in the context of your timeline. For example the Spotify app shows the music you're listening to, in a timeline bubble, so that friends can listen along. A Nike+ app can show when you've completed a run, a Cookery app might share a recipe you've made. The reason this is interesting, is that Facebook have further opened up the Social Graph to developers to enable these kind of apps, they're all built around Actions that a user can take like: watched a movie, read a book, cooked a recipe. Which when clicked, manifest themselves as Timeline items. So where Facebook used to revolve around "Liking" things, that vocabulary just got the potential to be a lot bigger!

So how does this apply to recruitment?

Well, at this stage it's up for debate! But as always, a new feature set provides a whole new set of ways for clever folk to start to manipulate them and build new apps on top of them. A couple of ideas that jumped out at us in Chatter HQ: - The new timeline based format can be used to share information from birth to now. Meaning candidates could start to use it as a truly social CV, using the Life events feature to feature the kind of milestones you'd usually expect to see on a résumé. - The new social apps are based around actions. While it's unlikely users would want to share actions like "Jon Applied for a Job" (preferring to keep it secret from their current boss perhaps!) we can see potential uses for referral schemes for example. "Jon recommended a job at xxx" But one thing that's for sure...all those people complaining this week about the relatively tiny changes to Facebook that lead up to this...are going to hit the roof! We'll leave you with the official intro video from Facebook: [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzPEPfJHfKU&w=570]  

The Chat - w/c 12th September

With Jon in Spain all week, Lisa, Sally and I thought we'd be able to treat ourselves to late starts, long lunches and early finishes but instead we've been noses firmly pressed to the grindstone. We're still closing off some of the initial projects we've been working on and gearing up for launch. So Sally and Lisa, along with the development team, are busy testing the sites so we can be sure they're robust and bug-free before we hit the go live button.  I've been working on an attraction, branding and user experience piece of insight for a new client. The results are pretty interesting and will help inform their resourcing strategy over the short and medium term. Alongside that, I've been looking at gearing up for our first wave of marketing activity now we have some live work we can share. We're planning our marketing collateral, identifying the events we'll be attending and how we can make the biggest splash. It's meant we've had some really interesting meetings and conversations this week, with some equally interesting new flock members. It's why we've had bowls full of fudge in the office and an illustration of Jon drawn up. Dom Winstanley from the DT popped in to say hi - and talk us through his song choices for Charlie's Karaoke after the RBA's on the 29th. A few interesting options - although we can't help but suspect he'll opt for KOL's Sex is on Fire again! We've had two more proposals approved, both from brand spanking new clients to add to our growing band of lovely new friends. So all in all, we've earned the chocolate we devoured earlier on, and a beer or two once we leave! Have a great weekend folks!

Design classics. What's yours?

We have to hold our hands up and admit that here at Chatter, we're often guilty of prioritising "form over function", so we have to work hard to make things really beautiful, that work really well too. I don't suppose the many millions of candidates who'll have acted on the ads we've conceived, websites we've built or video's we've produced over the years, will have given much thought to how they all came about; and that's how it ought to be, because ultimately design's not art, it's not produced to be admired and studied, it has to serve a purpose, achieve an objective or help solve a problem.  Great designs are all around us. They are literally everywhere we look, from the cars we drive to the homes we live in. They're an essential part of our everyday life, and without it, life would be very very different indeed. Imagine what the world might be like without the famous London Tube Map - designed by Harry Beck and first seen in 1931, or Alec Issigonis's legendary Mini, or even Jørn Utzon's famous Sydney Opera House. They're all great examples of innovative thinking and creative problem solving which led to iconic, enduring and cherished design classics. But more than that, they're all examples of designs which pushed boundaries, inspired new thinking and broke new frontiers. For every obvious design classic we could mention, there's an army of unsung heros too. Designers so good, that they're creations go on reliably toiling day in, day out. Never faltering, and never giving us the excuse to have to question them. The humble electricity pylon's one such design. They silently support our power infrastructure across the length and breadth of the country. They're so well designed in fact, that unless we're faced with having one planted at the foot of our back garden, we don't seem to mind that they're great industrial monsters of streel and cable. Their presence is almost reassuring. Thanklessly holding us together. Blending into our green and pleasant land. But all that could be about to change following an announcement from the Royal Institute of British Architects and the National Grid, that a competition has been underway to consider new designs for these pillars of power. And in this world of NIMBY-ism, there's likely to be lots of debate and opinion about a structure that has gone largely unmentioned for the last however many years. If you're interested to see what new pylons coming to a town near you might look like, check out the competition website. Interestingly, Utzon's design-commission for the Sydney Opera House was won in exactly the same way. Initially just a vision for a harbour-side venue which structurally echoed the physical environment in which it would sit. Tall white arcs, which when viewed from a distance, would look like sails on yachts moored in the harbour. And when he won his commission in 1957, Utzon had no idea how the building could be engineered, it was just a concept. The work to make it happen all came later, and the venue was finally opened in 1973 - over time and over budget. But ultimately the pursuit of that vision has endured, and in a relatively short space of time, taken its place as one of the most iconic buildings in the modern world. In the context of a global economy which is infected and weak, real design is often sacrificed in favour of more functional, less indulgent options. Examples like Beck's London Tube map, Issigonis's Mini and Utzon's beautiful opera house, prove that great design is a sound investment in these difficult times. More then that, they're good for the soul. Designers of the world, we salute you.  

The Chat w/c 29th August

Sally here... Back hard at it after my summer holiday. I say holiday, I use the term loosely as it consisted of four days under canvas in North Norfolk. Two days were non stop rain which brought the earwigs out - or should I say in...  I highly recommend Bewilderwood and Holkham Hall.  Although next time I think I’ll leave the kids at home and book myself into one of the luxurious B&Bs I spied. Cley Windmill looked a good bet. Hard at it then. It’s crunch time for Project Atlas - a spangly new careers site scheduled to launch next week. After some last minute tweaking I was in a double act with Jon putting in content via the CMS (we're using Expression Engine) before Lisa cast her beady eye over it. It was good to be reunited with my old friend Pivotal Tracker - great tool for de bugging and capturing things at UAT stages. We’ve still got some work to do but we’re thinking it looks pretty good - and our client seems happy too, which is always a bonus! Project Minority (or whatever it’s called) moved on too - a step closer to commencing after some of the legalese is sorted out and a big meeting client side was pushed to next week which should see things kicked off properly. I’ve been putting the finishing touches to a presentation to the rest of Chatter about managing The Flock - more of this to come over the next few posts. Oh, and if you are interested in getting in touch to show us your etchings (or photos, or html or whatever you’re brilliant at) click here...I’ll get right back to you. This week was just a sharpener after my holiday - it’s gonna get really busy next week.... Love it.

The Chat w/c 15th August

At last we're in full on design and build mode for Project Atlas, so Monday saw a roundtable discussion with the designer and development team from the Flock, who also brought bacon butties...which was a nice touch (and nothing to do with them being coerced into coming up with the goods). We were up against the clock this week having being invited to the Ebor races at York on Friday by our Write Research Company friends, we needed to cram alot into four days in the office. And on a personal note, the long awaited extension also started at my house, so 4 weeks of dust a grime to follow, accompanied by a 'summer holiday' demob happy seven year old who's pestering me like mad to let him buy 'call of duty' on Xbox. He doesn't seem to understand the concept of age certifications! So the battle continues. Had a really nice brand and web development project signed off from a large housing association, so we're starting to gather insight to develop the EVP and pull together the broad outline of the scope of the web build. It's a collaborative project with a video production team and an RPO who are working hand in hand with us on the onboarding aspect of new recruits. We also spent a big chunk of time rescoping the 'minority report' project (which we've renamed Project Touch) to increase its application across android and apple phones and tablets and we're looking forward to starting on this project in the next couple of weeks...great one for the portfolio. We had some visitors to Chatter towers too in the form of Johnny Carr at Mask who's working with up on a bid for a large University client as well as a couple of old friends who's we're now working with...more on this soon The business end:-
  • Project Atlas kicks off
  • Project Touch rescoped and ready to start
  • Got through a partners financial planning meeting without any heated debates
  • Submitted a further 2 proposals

The Chat - w/c 8th August

What a week, with the backdrop of riots across the UK, we were strangely proud that the people of Leeds and Bradford stayed relatively calm and the shops of Yorkshire remained unlooted. In Chatter land it's been busy as ever, Project Atlas rumbles ever onwards, while the two we mentioned last week are getting going. On Monday, we had a client kick off meeting for our exciting touch-screen project, followed on Wednesday with a kick off with the development team. So already, we've got dates being plotted, milestones logged and task lists sprouting which is exciting. On Tuesday, Lisa and Paul went down to London to pitch for an Employee Values project and we've got our fingers crossed for a positive result there. Wednesday saw Lisa zig-zagging up and down the North of the country to several meetings with prospective clients, all of which went really positively too. (They really did, we're not just rose-tinting it for the blog, honest!) Thursday was a jam packed day for Sally and me, the kick-off meeting I've already mentioned took up a big chunk of the day and was bookended with project catch up calls and meetings with two potential flock members showing us their front-end and back-end ... development skills. We end the week with Paul and I back in the office plugging away at our respective to-do lists and Lisa off down to London for a meeting followed by a weekend in the big smoke.

Searching candidate profiles on multiple sites? Easy!

As businesses move towards a direct sourcing model to find candidates, we've seen an increasing number of bloggers and organisations talking about "X-Ray searching" and Boolean searching sites for candidates as if it's some radically new invention and not a feature of search engines that's been around well over a decade! It seems to be the latest thing to be re-badged with a sexy new name and rolled out to clients in the form of training courses and "technology" to help them do it more effectively.

What is X-Ray searching? Well, if you've yet to come across it, it's simply using the advanced search tools of either the search box on a social network or Google (which indexes an awful lot of the social site content) to home in on pages likely to be the profiles or CV's of candidates. Effectively finding passive candidates you can start a dialog with, outside the usual pools of talent like job boards and CV databases. Don't get me wrong, there are some great products out there using this kind of approach as a basis, but they then take it a step further and add some really useful tools to save, sort and sift the candidates you find, alongside tools to contact them and keep them warm. But increasingly I'm seeing people dressing up what's essentially nothing more than a Google search box and inferring that it's a radical new solution to your resourcing problems!

This came to a head last week, when I spotted a few people tweeting that LinkedIn should look out, as Google were about to steal their lunch, having launched a recruiting module for Google+. This struck me as odd, recruitment is a niche space to jump into so soon after the launch of Google+ which is still only in trial mode, it's not even fully launched yet. But things became a bit clearer once I clicked through and saw the "Google product" they were promoting, it was nothing to do with Google at all! Some enterprising soul has registered the domain gplusrecruiter.com and stuck a free Google Custom Search box on it, tailored to search only Google+ profile pages. Along with a quick video tutorial on how to add the candidates you find to your Google+ circles and start chatting to them. A very clever spotting of an opportunity, but not rocket science, and not more than a couple of hours work at most.

Because a lot of the work we do at Chatter is about working with clients to identify their sourcing issues and then use communications to improve on them, we thought it might be fun to demonstrate just how easy it is to create something like this yourself and tailor it exactly to your needs. So, over lunch, I knocked together a quick prototype, and with a (very) small fanfare I present the Chatter One Search for Recruiters. Very much a Ronseal name for it, there's a chocolate bar on offer for the best alternative sexy technology sounding name for it... grin One search box, which will return results from user profile pages (or the nearest we can get) on: LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Quora and Xing and then let you filter the results down to any of those sites individually.

Like any search engine, the quality of results depends on what you plug into it. But searching for names, job titles and locations is a pretty good start and the more specific you get the more likely you are to find a useful candidate. A search like "Project Manager Leeds"  works well and if you want to find people who've worked at competitor organisations then combinations of job titles, departments and competitor names can yield some interesting results too.

Launch Chatter One Search for Recruiters >>  This is just a quick proof of concept example of the kind of things you can do using existing web tools bolted together, add some well crafted communications into the mix and things could get really interesting. As always, if you need help with this kind of thing, then get in touch for a chat!

Note: We have noticed Google Custom Search being a little flaky from time to time, so if you get no results or just an advert, then try again later and do let us know.

The Chat - w/c 1st August

We knew this week would be good since it kicked off on Yorkshire Day, but in all honesty it surpassed even our rose-tinted expectations. There's lots of buzz about the place because we're at the end of our first quarter (it's not that we can't count, we know we're a month behind the rest of you, but be fair, we only opened the doors in April). The good news is that we've survived so far. Not only that, we're in good shape. We're working with some lovely clients helping them overcome some interesting HR communications challenges. We bicker like kids but it still feels great to be doing the things we do best. And having completed one or two of our initial projects (look out for the new case study section on welovechatter in the next few weeks) we were thrilled to get two shiny new clients on board, both have interesting new projects for us to dip our bills into. One's a leading Housing Association and we'll be helping them with their Brand, Careers Site and Induction materials; the other's a Technology business keen to engage their own people to explain how all their "tech" actually works, without sending them to sleep! In turn, they hope all that increased knowledge will help provide an even better service to their customers. So we're cracking out the big guns with a Minority Report style installation. All very exciting! With two lovely new clients on board, an invitation from our good friends at Write Research Company  to join them at York Races on the 19th August, and a pay cheque from Jon to celebrate, we rounded off our first quarter in style with a slap up lunch at The New Ellington in Leeds. The food was spectacular. Onwards and upwards now!    

The Chat w/c 25th July

I’ve been a bit slack on blogging this week (well last week if we’re being picky), but you know how hard it is to get back into work after a well-earned break. I was back in at the deep end on Wednesday, picking up a careers site project which the guys had admirably managed whilst I was sunning myself in Crete (Gerani to be precise), and getting back into new business mode with a number of proposals to get through, including a fab opportunity from an ex-colleague. Jon was away in London attending a full day off-site to help build an ATS, and Sal was camping somewhere in the wilds of North Yorkshire, so just me and Paul to amuse ourselves and crack through the work, whilst listening to some blinding tunes on Radio 2.  I know people have a love hate relationship with Steve Wright, but I just can’t get enough of the music (handy reference to Depeche Mode in there), and he served up my favourite afternoon tunes. We’re also in the final throes of the values work we’ve being running with one of our clients, and it’s great to see a weeks worth of work coming to life, and making sense. The business end:-
  • 2 proposals submitted
  • 4 meetings diarised
  • Flat screen for my desk chosen
  • Full bag of Cretian sweets eaten
  • 3 new office plants purchased
  • 3 new office plants died


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