Last October – on the eve of the Conservative Party Conference – I launched my own UK-based public affairs & communications start-up. Fast forward six months – and to coincide with what I hope will be the last ever “virtual” Conservative Spring Forum (check out our ad in the Conservative Home and Conservatives in Communications newsletters today) – we’re chuffed to be helping six clients stand out from the crowd and make a difference and are now encouraging others to think and do Different.
Some people thought I was bonkers to be doing this during a global pandemic – and I’d be lying if I wasn’t a little bit nervous at the time – but, my gut instinct told me the timing was right and with the counsel and encouragement of those around me I’m glad I did; it’s one of the best moves I’ve made. Thank you.
As it turned out, I wasn’t the only one thinking about doing things differently... In fact – as PRovoke’s Maja Pawinska Sims guesstimated during a recent discussion on Clubhouse – a new PR outfit was established every week in 2020. Now that’s post-Brexit UK Plc in action.
What makes us different? From the outset we said: while networking and relationships remain the keys to success, people also need partners who get the big picture, get what needs to be done and get it done without all the faff. That’s us.
What do we mean by that? We don’t over promise and then under deliver. There isn’t a complicated on-boarding process and we never waste time with pointless meetings, PowerPoint slides and time-sheets when we’re working together. What’s more, unlike our competitors who are still forking out for swanky offices in SW1, Soho and the Square Mile – and are charging you a premium for doing so, I might add – we won’t cost you the Earth.
I look forward to what the next six months has in store and to hopefully meeting with you in-person – over breakfast, lunch, dinner or just a pint – very soon. That would be different!
PRCA Corporate Group event hosted by Adam Honeysett-Watts | Wednesday, March 10, 2021 | 4:15-5:00pm
2021 is shaping up to be a challenging economic environment for large and small businesses alike, as we emerge from the pandemic and adjust to the full impact of Brexit. Corporate communications professionals may well find themselves tasked with articulating and delivering bad news as their organisations navigate these challenges. Following the March Budget, PRCA’s Corporate Group spoke to industry experts about how to operationalise this, and how to mitigate the negative impact on their companies and salvage reputation when things are going south.
Death to presenteeism: As for the influence industry itself, Adam Honeysett-Watts, director of the Tories in Comms network, says staff are getting used to “new habits and norms” in a year where they’ve proven “resilient.” But it’s still, he says, “a people industry – our successes are built on networking and relationships; we absolutely need that face-to-face time.” Honeysett-Watts, who set up his own shop do Different. this year, says industry leaders need to learn to trust their people and partners “and ignore all talk of presenteeism” going into 2021. “The key to making remote working work is for managers to trust their colleagues,” he says. “In turn, all colleagues must deliver – at home and in the office.”
Conservatives in Communications event hosted by Adam Honeysett-Watts | Thursday, December 10, 2020 | 7:00-8:00pm
Are you interested in being an elected councillor? We invited supporters as well as connections of our patrons to hear from and put questions to three Conservative councillors who all work full-time: Cllr Oliver Cooper (Camden), Leader of the Conservative Group; Cllr Sarah Wardle (Barnet), Vice-Chairman of the Housing & Growth Committee; and Cllr Aisha Cuthbert (Bromley), Executive Assistant to the Leader.
PRCA Corporate Group event hosted by Adam Honeysett-Watts | Wednesday, December 2, 2020 | 4:15-5:00pm
Pandemics aside, 2020 has been a tumultuous year politically and ideologically. Brexit has never been far from the headlines, racial justice demonstrators have swelled streets across the globe, and public debate has become ever-more polarised on issues from vaccinations to lockdown freedoms to trans rights.
In October, the BBC introduced new guidelines that prohibited journalists from attending ‘controversial’ events such as marches or demonstrations. Insiders have since confirmed that Pride events and Black Lives Matter marches would likely be included in this directive. In September, the CEO of crypto exchange Coinbase, Brian Armstrong, released a statement explaining that his company did not take a stance on political or societal issues, as it distracts from their business focus, and offered staff who disagreed with this position the option to take voluntary redundancy (an offer 5% of their workforce has since accepted).
These episodes raise interesting challenges for corporate communications professionals. With so many polarising issues on the news pages this year, when and how should your organisation take a stance? When does a matter of principle become a matter for business? With inclusive employment practices now higher on corporate agendas, executives must acknowledge space within their organisations for people from across the political, ideological and religious spectrums. Taking a stance risks alienating some, but taking no stance at all brings with it the potential for even bigger issues, as Coinbase and the BBC are finding.
In this virtual event – to mark the relaunch of PRCA’s Corporate Group – we explored how corporate communications pros can help their organisations to identify when to take a stand, how to remain authentic and how to navigate the potential risks and benefits.
Adam Honeysett-Watts, formerly of fintech DTCC and principal director of the Conservatives in Communications network, has launched his own independent public affairs and comms consultancy called do Different, promising a team that can “get stuff done”. More on the outfit here. Honeysett-Watts has also agreed to chair industry body the PRCA’s Corporate Group, which will be relaunching soon with a “State of Play” event on the thorny issue of when it’s right for businesses to take a stand on big issues.
The Public Relations and Communications Association’s (PRCA) Corporate Group has announced Adam Honeysett-Watts CMPRCA as its new co-chair, joining Rebecca Donnelly CMPRCA.
Adam’s the Founder & Director of do Different. and has more than 13 years of in-house as well as large and small agency experience in both developing and delivering purposeful campaigns and communications. He’s supported and represented multiple corporations, SMEs and trade associations – predominantly in the finance, technology and retail sectors. Adam is also Principal Director of the Conservatives in Communications networking group.
PRCA Corporate Group Co-Chair Adam Honeysett-Watts CMPRCA, said:
“We’re living in different times; for example, how we work, how we spend and how we consume information. With all this change there is a renewed emphasis on businesses to understand the landscape in which they operate and the world in which their stakeholders now live, while ensuring they continue to stand out from the crowd. For those reasons, it’s time we did things a little bit... differently.
“PR professionals have a critical role to play in developing and delivering purposeful campaigns, and the PRCA Corporate Group is ready to act as a forum to share learnings and best practice, provoke debate and stimulate new ideas, and help shape the understanding of corporate communications.”
As covered by Civil Service World.
Adam Honeysett-Watts, Principal Director of Conservatives in Communications – an independent and informal industry network of 600 professionals including current and former culture ministers has today launched do Different., a new public affairs and communications offering.
Honeysett-Watts has more than 13 years of in-house and agency experience, predominantly in the finance, technology and retail sectors. He recently left DTCC to setup his firm and prior to that worked at Burson-Marsteller (now BCW), Hume Brophy and Cognito.
“Evidently, we live in different times. In our opinion, it's time to do different,” he commented. “Networking and relationships remain the keys to success, however people also need partners who get the big picture, get what needs to be done and get stuff done. That’s us.”
Honeysett-Watts is co-chair of the PRCA Corporate Group with his fellow UEA graduate Rebecca Donnelly. You can learn more about his story on the UEA alumni site.
do Different. has been founded by Conservatives in Communications director Adam Honeysett-Watts.
LONDON – Political communications specialist Adam Honeysett-Watts has set up his own public affairs and PR agency, do Different.
Honeysett-Watts is also the principal director of Conservatives in Communications, a group he grew to around 600 heads of public affairs and PR and special advisers, including almost 50 MPs and peers who have previously worked in communications.
Most recently, Honeysett-Watts was associate director of PR, public affairs and social media at American fintech The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC) for six years.
He has also worked in corporate and crisis communications at BCW and at public affairs agency Hume Brophy, working with finance, technology and retail clients including Bank of America Merrill Lynch, J.P. Morgan, Adobe, Kantar Media, Nestlé, QVC, the National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) and World Duty Free.
do Different. will focus on public affairs, policy communications, social media, PR and internal communications for UK businesses and organisations.
Honeysett-Watts told PRovoke:
“Many of the big London agencies like to bang on about strategy. Don’t get me wrong, strategy is very important. However, sometimes, clients just need their partners to do the bread and butter public affairs and communications stuff well, to get the big picture and get it done without the faff.”
The new agency will work on a partnership model, with a core team plus contractors and freelance specialists. The name of the venture comes from a old regional expression in Norfolk, where Honeysett-Watts studied, and an approach to his career based on losing both parents before he was 16.
Honeysett-Watts said: “I’ve always done things a little bit... differently. Growing up without both parents forces you to sink or swim. I moved from Yorkshire to Norfolk and then while studying and working I decided to combine my passion for politics and language by sourcing a career in communications.”
And he said launching the venture in the pandemic felt like the right timing:
“Sometimes opportunities are borne out of a crisis. Because we live in different times, it’s time to do different again. I’ve been thinking about launching an offering for a while and the timing just feels right. I’m super excited.”
Adam Honeysett-Watts studied Politics at UEA, graduating in 2007. He's been involved in politics on and off ever since and, inspired by his time at UEA, recently launched his own public affairs & communications called 'do Different.'
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO STUDY AT UEA?
First off, the University of East Anglia (UEA) had and continues to maintain a solid reputation. In 2004, The Sunday Times ranked UEA 20th out of 119 universities (top 17%). In 2020, UEA is 21st out of 131 (top 16%). That's impressive! And secondly, I attended an open day and was instantly sold on the campus and the town. From that point onward, I looked forward to moving there.
HOW DID YOU FIND LIVING IN NORWICH?
I was born, went to school and – for all intents and purposes – spent most of my teenage years in Beverley, East Yorkshire. Beverley is a market town (think: a small version of York), famed for its Minster, Westwood, racecourse and good schools. Norwich is a market city, known for its Cathedral, proximity to the Broads, football club and excellent university. Both places – steeped in medieval history – are friendly and safe; offer excellent shops, pubs, restaurants, and music scenes; and are ranked by – yes, you guessed it – The Sunday Times as two of the best places to live in the UK. Because of these similarities, it wasn’t difficult to adjust to the East Anglican lifestyle. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like either.
HOW DID YOU FIND STUDYING POLITICS? DID YOU THINK YOU’D GET INTO A POLITICAL CAREER WHEN YOU WERE STUDYING?
At some point when I was growing up, I developed an interest in politics. In addition to sixth form during the day, I chose to study politics at night college and my fascination only grew stronger. So, I was over the moon to be offered a place at UEA reading the subject. The variety of topics was diverse, and the tuition – through a combination of lectures and seminar groups – was top-notch; we were always encouraged to speak our minds. The two modules that I enjoyed the most were also the ones I got my best marks in: European Media & the EU and Political Communication. However, it was to be my dissertation unit – producing a piece of work for the then Shadow Home Secretary David Davis MP – that convinced me that I had to move to London and get more involved upon graduating.
HOW DID YOUR TIME AT UEA DEVELOP YOUR CHARACTER?
With my parents passing away when I was aged six and 16, and my sister at university at the opposite end of the M62, I had to grow up quickly living on my own. I therefore craved a different experience and UEA provided it. The campus experience is so valuable, and I’d recommend it to everybody.
YOU’VE WORKED IN COMMUNICATIONS AND POLITICS. HOW DID YOUR CAREER BEGIN AFTER UEA AND HOW HAS IT DEVELOPED?
As predicted, I moved to London and decided to work in communications and keep politics as an interest. After three years – and to coincide with the new coalition government coming to power – I made the move into lobbying. For the next three years I spent most of my time in Westminster and Whitehall with MPs, aides and politicos – and loved every minute of it. From there, I worked for the world’s third largest PR consultancy by fee income before moving in-house to a large financial technology company. Outside of office hours, I’ve always been involved in various political projects, such as Communications Officer for the Young Conservatives as well as backing several friends, like Paul Holmes MP, to get elected and those already in office, e.g. Dame Eleanor Laing MP, to go further.
WHAT ARE YOU UP TO NOW AND HOW HAS COVID-19 AFFECTED YOUR WORK?
I've spent 50% of my 13-year career in-house and 50% in agency – advising external and internal clients on all thing's public affairs and communications. 18 months ago, I volunteered to relaunch Conservatives in Communications – an independent and informal industry network of professionals – and, today, it has 600 supporters including 48 business and parliamentary patrons. These experiences have taught me what I like doing the most and helped to home in on what I should do next.
I’ve decided to follow the trend of starting a business during lockdown and launch a new independent consultancy that does things a bit... differently. I love working remotely, but we are a people industry – our successes are built on networking and relationships. Although the many technologies – for example, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams and Zoom – have worked much better than expected, they’re no substitute for face-to-face in certain situations. After this is over – while not all of us will return to the office – I suspect, and hope, we’ll be able to meet-up like the old days.
WHY STAY IN TOUCH WITH UEA?
As I hint above, I’m forever grateful for the opportunities that were presented and the experiences I had at UEA. And as mentioned earlier, I believe networking and relationships are the keys to success. In fact, I’ve just become co-chair of the PRCA Corporate Group – the other co-chair also studied at UEA! The alumni network is just one way of showing that appreciation and staying connected. Another is by giving back financially, which I have done since 2015. More alumni should do the same if they're able to.
YOU’VE NAMED YOUR NEW BUSINESS ‘DO DIFFERENT.’ SO, DO YOU STILL VISIT NORFOLK?
I do. A group of friends still live in or around Norwich and many of them work at the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital. Others also moved to London and we meet-up when we can.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO CURRENT FIRST YEARS, STARTING THEIR STUDIES IN A MOST TURBULENT TIME?
Seek out and get involved in as many different things as possible, whether that’s university societies or part-time work. You only have to look at Greg James, who was in my year group. He studied drama with my flatmate and presented several shows on Livewire –now he’s the host of Radio 1 Breakfast. I was fairly active in Student Union politics as the Undergraduate Representative (2004-07) for what was then the School of Political, Social and International Studies as well as President of the Politics Society. Plus, I worked roughly 20 hours per week in a retail job, and interned on the business desk at Norwich Evening News and with Band & Brown PR. Employers want to see something that distinguishes you from hundreds of applicants. ’do Different.’!
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had to do different; and that ability to adapt has never been more important.
I was born, went to school and – for all intents and purposes – spent most of my teenage years in Beverley, a market town in East Yorkshire famed for its Minster, Westwood and racecourse. I consider myself to be a Beverlonian.
With my parents passing away when I was quite young, and my sister at university on the other side of the Pennines, I had to grow up quickly living on my own.
I recall a handful of conversations with my Dad – him telling me never to forget my roots, and that if I put the hours in it would pay off in the end. Heeding that good advice, I read plenty of books, got my GCSEs and worked every weekend.
Somewhere along the way I developed an interest in politics. I later learned my great uncle, Arthur Watts of Watts Bros. hauliers, was Mayor of Beverley (1939 – 43). As I write this, a model of one of those trucks sits proudly on my desk.
During sixth form, I chose to study politics at night college and my enthusiasm grew stronger. With A-levels under my belt, I secured a place at UEA and off to Norwich I went.
It’s well-known that ‘People in Norfolk do things different.’ We’d get along handsomely during those three years, and I'm forever grateful for the opportunities and experiences that I had.
Fast forward 13 more and I’ve had the honour of working on behalf of a variety of organisations based around the world. Today, I’m following the trend of launching a UK-based start-up during lockdown; a business that does things... differently.
But it’s not just about me; for we live in different times and we must all do Different.
Before Christmas, I wrote: “2020 is going to be a year like no other. Fasten your seatbelts, folks – you’re in for a wild ride.” I meant the UK could move forward after years of Parliamentary stalemate and the Government could focus on levelling-up the country.
However, nobody knew what was around the corner.
Much of what’s taken place over the past six months has been in the works for a while. What’s happened is the pandemic has accelerated the rate at which governments, organisations and individuals alike were already adapting to new expectations.
You could argue that there’s been – apologies in advance to all PRs and journalists – a turning point, a sea change or as one politician cited: a paradigm shift.
Even when we find a vaccine, I doubt we’ll return to our old ways of working and living; a lot has happened. We’ve become accustomed to new habits and norms, and become more resilient.
But with all this change – for example, how we work, how we spend and how we consume information – there is a renewed emphasis on businesses to understand the landscape in which they operate and the world in which their stakeholders now live, while ensuring they continue to stand out from the crowd.
In this regard, people need partners who get the big picture, get what needs to be done and can get stuff done. That’s me.
Only then, can you sit down and join our American friends across the pond in sipping a delicious cup of Yorkshire Tea – sales of which have soared 926% – as they stock up to see through the presidential campaign.
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