Why TopLine Film prioritises mental health in the workplace

Mental health issues can come in many shapes and forms, affecting our lives and work in profound ways, whether we realise it or not. In 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially classified workplace burnout as an occupational phenomenon. The organisation describes it as the result of chronic workplace stress that has not been effectively managed.

Burnout is bad for both employees and the business, and as with many workplace issues, it is easier to intervene early, before it escalates. That, along with improvements to productivity and overall morale, is why it is in every company’s interest to invest in mental health in the workplace. According to the WHO, investing in improving workplace support will deliver increased productivity and financial benefits.

As a video production company, we believe that tackling workplace stress is a fundamentally important issue, which is why we’re always working on implementing strategies to support our employees’ mental health.

How TopLine supports its employees

We have a number of initiatives to increase employee wellbeing, and we’re always looking for ways to improve and expend them. Here are a few of our policies:

An open-door culture and openness about mental health

It can be tough to talk about mental health issues, because they are inherently personal and have historically been stigmatised. However, being able to tell your colleagues when you’re having a tough time can make a huge difference. Our policy of openness is set from the top down. Our CEO, Heather, led by example after she was diagnosed with postnatal depression and struggled to come back to work. She bravely emailed the company to tell us about her situation and in doing this she made the team feel comfortable to share their own challenges.

According to Heather, she was met with an outpouring of understanding and empathy from the TopLine team. Many of us have experienced anxiety and depression ourselves, and everybody knows someone close to them who has. Therefore, we all work to create an environment where we can be honest about mental health in the workplace and support each other when we need it.  

Flexible working

A 2018 study of more than 3,000 professionals found that 97% of respondents said that flexibility from their employer would have a “huge” or “positive” impact on their quality of life.

At TopLine, we encourage flexible working. Employees can work remotely two days a week, and can work flexible hours. We have found that this keeps our employees motivated and increases their level of satisfaction at work, as well as contributing to improved mental health.

Flexible work isn’t just a “nice to have” perk: it’s one of the most significant policies that a company can adopt to support employee wellbeing. It means that employees are able to do more of what they love, whether that’s spending time with their family, pursuing a passion, hitting the gym or just snoozing for a little longer – all of which are key to creating a healthy and happy lifestyle.

We welcome pets

Sitting down to pet a dog brings a unique sense of relief: the dog doesn’t understand deadlines or demanding clients; it’s just happy to see you. And it’s not just us that feel this way: there’s plenty of scientific evidence that being around pets improves mental health. At TopLine, we have a wonderful office dog named Devon, and occasional visits from team members’ dogs, like Socks and Milo. According to our regular feedback surveys, bringing in pets is one of the most popular features of the office.

Mental health is an ongoing concern around the world. Most people spend a huge chunk of their lives at work – and for many, work almost becomes a second home. That’s why we believe it is imperative to look after our employees’ mental health and ensure they have the support they need to live a happy and healthy life. Do you like the sound of working for a company with these values? If you do, then feel free to take a look at our careers page to see what opportunities are available.

 

Written by: Jenna Rosmarin, Comms Executive 

Why you can’t afford to skimp on spokesperson training

As a B2B PR agency, we understand the importance of well-prepared, confident spokespeople when it comes to dealing with journalists and broadcasters. Your spokesperson needs to understand what the media requires of them and media interview etiquette, or things can quickly go off the rails.

Even people who are subject matter experts sometimes freeze when they’re put in front of a camera, while some people have the opposite problem and ramble when they get nervous. Worst-case, a spokesperson could accidentally reveal trade secrets or even insult the journalist. Any of these scenarios can be embarrassing, both for the individual and for the company that they’re representing, but it’s an avoidable problem.

Spokesperson training gives spokespeople the skills that they need to stay calm and on message when they appear in public. It involves anticipating questions, practicing answers, and becoming comfortable in a studio environment.

Here are three examples of terrible interviews – and lessons learnt from each.

1: Crumbling under pressure

When Jeff Fairburn, the ex-CEO of Persimmon was asked about his £75m bonus on camera, it was pretty obvious he hadn’t prepared. So much so, his PR advisor can be heard trying to jump in. It’s painful to watch and gives a terrible impression of the company.

Lessons learnt…

  • Ask the right questions – this awkward situation could have easily been prevented with the right preparation. Think about the most awkward questions you could be asked and prepare answers
  • Practice answer, bridge, control – Politicians are great at this, and spokespeople need to copy their model technique: answer (“That’s a great question…”), bridge (“…however I think we need to focus on the real issue here…”, and control (…proceeds to give answer they want to give)

2: Refusing to answer questions

Maria Sharapova’s post-match press conference is a perfect example of how not to respond when a journalist asks an awkward question. When Sharapova was asked a question she disliked, she insulted the first journalist and then promptly ignored another.

Lessons learnt…

  • Fail to prepare, prepare to fail – these questions should have been anticipated and answers prepared
  • A simple one line answer would have moved the press conference on. Refusing to answer a question and being rude to a journalist draws more attention to an issue, not less

3: Having no idea about what your message is

Prince Andrew’s BBC interview about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein is a masterclass in how not to do it. He failed to express any sympathy for Epstein’s victims and instead danced around questions about their friendship.

Lessons learnt…

  • Proactivity is not always the best approach – Prince Andrew is believed to have been a driving force in the decision to take part in the Emily Maitlis interview
  • PR people should be trusted to advise on a proactive/reactive approach
  • Use common sense – positioning a relationship with a paedophile as being beneficial to your personal career goals is not wise
  • Be a human being – show sincere remorse if appropriate
  • Consider stakeholder impact – businesses, universities and charities have disassociated themselves with the prince since the interview
  • Prince Andrew was apparently considering doing a second interview as he felt he didn’t get across all of his points – that’s because people panic when they’re put in front of a camera – essential that when you’re training your spokespeople you make it as real as possible with real journalists and real cameras, lights and sound equipment (radio mics, booms etc.) set up and recording.
  • Media training professionals can review footage with your spokespeople to assess performance, spot tells, improve general performance and advise on answering technique
  • Once again, consider the questions that could be asked and prepare messaging in advance

When the cameras stop rolling…

If you take anything from this blog, remember:

  • Spokesperson training shouldn’t be overlooked
  • Get as close to the real thing as possible with tame journos, blazing hot lighting, cameras etc.
  • Prepare for difficult questions in advance
  • Practice, practice, practice: answer, bridge, control
  • Don’t dismiss brand journalism (in all its forms: filmed interview, written Q&A, Instagram statement etc.) – prepare the message yourself, stay in control of the message

Your spokespeople are the face of your company so it’s important that they feel confident and able when talking with media in different formats. If you want to find out more about media training, get in touch!

Check out these 3 videos we made for proptech companies

Property technology, or proptech, companies continue to streamline the experience of buying, renting, and managing property, but many potential customers are still unfamiliar with them. Fortunately, a well-made video can introduce these services and the benefits they offer in a concise, effective way. At TopLine Film, we’ve worked with several proptech companies to get their message out to customers. Here are three of our favourite videos we produced for proptech companies.

Purple Bricks

We were really pleased with this character-based explainer animation for Purple Bricks, an online estate agent. The design is bold and quirky, which reflects the company’s personality and brand positioning, and we made a point of using the same actors from their TV ad campaign to narrate this explainer to create consistency across their content.

In addition to the playful characters, we used an abstract user interface to represent the website, which fit nicely with the tone of the video. This video was dynamic and fun, bouncing from scene to scene as soon as the narrator explained each point, so using a simplified representation of the website let us keep momentum. Overall, we think this video works well because it has an abundance of ‘The Three P’s’: Personality, Pace and Production Value.

iMove

We made this line-style animation for iMove, who wanted a video to use during investment presentations. One challenge we had to overcome in making this video was that the platform didn’t exist yet. We decided to keep all of the interface elements abstract so the client would have maximum flexibility when it came to designing their site, and – as an added bonus – the video will remain relevant regardless of future redesigns.

Another consideration was that iMove aims to sell its services worldwide. This required us to keep the illustrations of properties simple and generic and not identifiable as located in a specific geography, but we didn’t let that limit our creativity. We think this video was successful because of the clean, modern style and the tight script, which conveys a lot of information in just two minutes.

Upad

This video is an oldie but goodie. The pop-up paper style catches the viewer’s attention, and even though the video is 8 years old, it still stands strong. The point of the video was to show how simple and easy it is to use Upad, so we chose a minimal style and walked the viewer through the process step by step to reinforce how straightforward it is to use Upad.

Given the simplicity of the script and animation, we wanted something to elevate the video to the next level. That’s why we decided to splash out a little to bring in a fantastic voice-over – Nick Brimble who played Little John in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. We’re glad we did, because his calm, resonant voice brings a sense of confidence to the video.

If you’re looking for an introductory video for your proptech company – or any other sort of video or animation – reach out to our MD, Jamie today.

A note from our CEO to the team
Dear team
I thought I would give you all a little update on my return to work [following maternity leave]. [my baby] is now six months old and I was hoping to be back at work almost full time from this point. However, circumstances have not allowed that and I wanted to explain why.
I have been suffering from postnatal depression again, which was diagnosed in early November. I am addressing it through a combination of pills, therapy, exercise, meditation and I am making progress. However, not as much progress or not as quickly as I had hoped.
I know this impacts the business and all of you (knowing that makes it worse unfortunately), however it’s a very difficult situation and I don’t feel I have much choice in the matter.
My situation is a little different from the typical maternity leave because I wasn’t able to bring in maternity cover while I was off – that would have been very expensive, impractical and mostly extremely risky. Moreover, finding the right person, training them up and feeling secure to leave them in charge of the business would have taken a lot longer than the 7 months I had between finding out I was pregnant and having the baby. So while maternity cover might have seemed ideal to someone looking in from the outside, it is a much more complicated process than that and I wasn’t able to do it.
I’ve done a lot of research and there are many women in my situation. Some decide not to have children or put it on hold, which didn’t work for me. Others, who aren’t able to find maternity cover instead choose to take a really short maternity leave of a month or so. Again, this wasn’t an option for me and this is a personal choice – a month is not long enough to recover physically from a C-section. But more importantly, every new parent’s experience is different. For me: I wanted to prioritise bonding with my baby and managing my own mental health over work, which is why I wanted to take at least 3 months off completely and then work part time thereafter.
This comes at a cost to the business – I know not having a full-time CEO impacts many aspects of a business and these are felt by all of you.
For those of you fortunate enough to never have experienced depression, you might find this odd – people often tell me I seem quite happy, but depression is not linear, and most people who are depressed have some good days. In my case, I use humour as a bit of a defence mechanism – joking is one of the ways I cope with my mood. But I also find it much easier to manage when I am around people. I experience depression as a persistent feeling that is somewhere between helplessness, being trapped and apathy. I am the type of person who is positive, optimistic, has lots of energy and does a lot of faking it til I make it. Depression saps my motivation for that, which means I usually have to pretend, which is in itself an enormous struggle!
I wanted to share this with you all, because I know that even though I have started coming back to work, I am still not back full time. This is because I need a little more time to bond with the boys and take care of myself.
It is very hard for me to stay away from [the business]: it’s been my life for over 10 years and the fortunes of my entire family are tied in with the business.  However, I need the extra time so I will continue to work part time for the next few months at 3-4 days a week. This means I still have to say no to quite a lot of stuff that I used to do and still really want to do.
Even though I’m not making as much progress as I had hoped, I am still making progress so I’m sure it won’t be long until I’m back to giving a 100% to the business.
And please don’t feel you either need to discuss this with me, or you can’t discuss this with me.
Heather