A Distinctive first year of stand-out PR support and positive impact

First birthday cake

I set up Distinctive Communications in June 2022 with a mission to make a positive difference by providing stand-out public relations support for place-makers, businesses and public bodies.

Completing our first full year provides plenty of opportunity for reflection and celebration. On a personal level it was a very tough, but good, first year in business. I learned plenty of lessons every day. Most of these learnings were positive; some were painful. Having outlasted two prime ministers in 2022, we can look back on our achievements with some pride.

As a business, we ended year one on target and profitable, with an impressive body of work to add to our credentials when we have time. We set ourselves a turnover target of £360,000. In the end, we came in about £250 short of that.

We also made our first hire, with Jasmine joining us as a content writer last year to support our campaigns. She’s a fantastic member of the team and leads our work for clients and our marketing efforts with distinction.

And I’m particularly proud of how we lived up to our mission to make a positive, tangible impact. Here follows some highlights which show how we did that.

Stand out support from the Distinctive crew

Our small team, supported by a trusted network of experts, worked with nearly 20 clients during the last year. We helped them develop strategies, deliver campaigns, build brands and engage the public.

The breadth of work – for universities, housebuilders, local authorities, businesses and visitor attractions – highlights the value of good communications.

Graphic to show success of first year at Distinctive Communications

It takes smart working, collaboration and a focus on outcomes to deliver this work.   

This year also saw lots of talk about automation and the advance of AI, which has the potential to be transformative and disruptive. We are looking at how it can support our team in the right way to enable us to focus on high value, human work. Through using it and discussing its impact with others, I believe there is still something to say for a specialist team that does what it promises and cares about its work. That’s not going to change for us, however we work in future. 

Making a difference

It’s pleasing to report here that our work made a positive social and economic impact, for our clients and communities.

Our engagement work, for example, promoted sites with capacity for thousands of much needed homes of all tenures and hundreds of jobs. This includes a community of highly sustainable council owned homes in Tiverton, Mid Devon, which councillors unanimously supported last year.

Our team also supported town and city centre regeneration projects and helped advance the case for investment in coastal communities in the South West.

Media relations interview

We also helped safeguard and create new jobs through strategic communications support for a major and high-profile acquisition of a client’s business. After months of preparation, it was great to see this land well in the national media, with the markets and partners.

And we invested time in causes we care about. Colleagues spent around 70 hours volunteering and providing pro bono support for campaigns throughout the year. This included supporting local charities, school events and advising trustees after the fire that destroyed Bristol’s Underfall Yard centre in May.

Our strong first year also gave us scope to support the team as inflation and interest rates put everyone’s finances under pressure. I was particularly proud to share a cost-of-living package with colleagues last autumn. This included healthcare cover, wellbeing support, access to discount schemes and pay increases for everyone. I’m looking at ways to improve this offer as new people join the team.

Challenges of agency life

Last year wasn’t without its painful moments. I don’t want to gloss over those by not acknowledging them here.  

Four colleagues departed since we set up to take other opportunities. Saying goodbye to them was hard, because of what we’ve shared and achieved together. None of us had planned to be part of a new business before it happened. But I took the decision for the right reasons. They leave with my best wishes, gratitude and a sense of pride in the part we have played in their continued professional success.  

As economic conditions hardened following the mini budget, we also lost two long-standing clients through no fault of our own. Making back income lost sets us back a few months. 

I know from conversations with other agencies who are bigger and more established than us that we are not alone in facing these challenges. But we are moving forward again after responding positively to them.  

Priorities for year two

Looking ahead, I don’t feel the fundamentals are any different from the day we set up. Our plan for next year sits around three priorities:

  • Form an engaged, resilient and happy team.
  • Develop and explain our purpose as a business, namely: why are we here?
  • In doing so, establish ourselves as one of the top agencies in our region and the sectors we serve.

We’ll do this by continuing to deliver great work, supporting each other and doing the right things well.

Thanks, and here's to the future!

So many people have played a role in helping us to get to this point.

I’m very grateful to colleagues – past and present – for their part in getting us here. Our brand, website and impressive list of achievements is down to the team. We are looking for new people to work with us and have some big opportunities to look forward to.

Massive thanks also go also to every client, who put their faith in us when we asked them to come on this journey. Their response after I told them we were setting up as Distinctive was amazing. It was a huge moment. Their support for it made it easier. We will never take that for granted.

Appreciation goes also to local businesses for their support and advice on matters I know hardly anything about. They include Connectable SW (website), Chubb Bulleid (legal), Old Mill (accountancy) and Gatenby Services (IT). 

Thanks also to those in my network – old and new – who took time to check in, advise and encourage me. Making new connections and reconnecting with old friends was a highlight.

Those closest to me – Lisa, my kids Penny and Henry, my mum and dad – deserve more thanks than anyone. They’re part of this with me. Setting up Distinctive provides an opportunity to create a business that makes a difference whilst making work better for all of us.

And thanks, finally, to hundreds of people who engaged positively with us in our first year. If you joined our social events, watched our webinars, browsed our blogs or subscribed to our Substack newsletter, we appreciate it! We hope you’ve found it useful and worthwhile.

We look forward to what the next year has in store. If we can be of any help or you’d like a chat, please drop us a line.

Photo by Brett Garwood on Unsplash.

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