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Merry Christmas from everyone at DTW

We’ve made a little Christmas animation just for you – you just know you need to brighten up your day by watching it.

We have really enjoyed working with you in 2018 and look forward to catching up with you again in 2019.

Thank you for helping us do what we love – it is through our work with amazing clients and partners like you that DTW has been able to win seven industry Gold awards this year – we couldn’t have done it without you so it’s a huge thank you from us.

Have a fantastic Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year!

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Mersey Gateway – an ideal Christmas stocking filler

Think you can’t fit a 10 kilometre infrastructure project in your Christmas stocking? Think again!!

For anyone who loves amazing infrastructure and engineering combined with beautifully well written and designed books the new The Mersey Gateway Project – A bridge to prosperity is a must.

Featuring some amazing not seen before images of the iconic new bridge over the River Mersey in Halton, it tells the story of the three-and-a-half year construction and the 20-year battle to get funding and planning permission.

We may be slightly biased as Paula and Sarah in our design team have done all the designs and artwork and we’ve had a hand in copy editing but we think this is an amazing book about a wonderful project.

Full marks to Laura and Michelle at the Mersey Gateway Crossings Board and Halton Borough Council for getting the story out of their heads and on paper.

The Mersey Gateway Project – A bridge to prosperity is available now for just £9.99 and you can pre-order your copy on Waterstones website.

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Triple award success for DTW at 2018 CIPR PRide awards

What a night! The DTW team was delighted to come away with three Gold awards from the CIPR North East Pride awards on Friday night (7 December).

Hannah Cheetham (right) picked up the hugely well deserved Outstanding Young Communicator award. We also won two big awards for our work with Sunderland City Council on its new Northern Spire bridge.

All in all, an amazing evening put on again by the CIPR at the Biscuit Factory in Newcastle.

To win Regional Campaign of the Year and Public Sector Campaign for the Northern Spire work is a real recognition of the blood, sweat and tears that Karen and others have put in on this project over the past three-and-a-half years. We’re very pleased.

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ annual PRide awards recognise the best public relations work done by agencies, freelancers and in-house teams across the UK.

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TUXtra – helping to build a bridge between students and the communications professions

What better way to spend a cold, dreary Wednesday night in December than with a glass of fizz and the people behind Teesside University’s exciting new media brand TUXtra?

Chris and Hannah (that’s me) did just that when we were invited along to TUXtra’s launch night to find out more.

So, before I tell you what we thought, let’s talk about what TUXtra actually is. A multimedia platform showcasing content produced by students and volunteers from Teesside University is what it says on the tin.

In other words, a news outlet, radio station and TV platform aiming to demonstrate the best work produced by the journalism, PR, film and TV and other students at Teesside University’s School of Computing, Media and Arts.

Now, providing students with a platform to showcase their work is great, but what makes TUXtra different from any other student newspaper or radio show? To start with they have some seriously impressive facilities which wouldn’t look out of place in industry, we were given a tour and there’s been a definite upgrade since I was a Teesside University student myself.

What’s really valuable though is giving students real-time ownership and responsibility over the whole operation, from a team producing the content, to editors with responsibility for sub-editing and selecting what appears online on a daily basis. It’s a winning combination to produce graduates who have more than just classroom experience.

As a business we enjoy excellent links with the University and it’s great to see them really investing in their students and offering a platform to develop experience and industry links which are so vital when standing out from the crowd after graduation.

Having a degree is a great starting point, but we can’t ignore the fact that businesses look for graduates with industry experience who can jump straight in and start benefitting the business from day one.

TUXtra isn’t a replacement for rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty on a work experience placement, but it does provide a consistent, easily accessible way for students to gain that all important industry experience and boost their employability.

Our verdict? It’s still early days (TUXtra was created over the summer) but we’ll be keeping a close eye on how things develop and we’re excited to see what the future has in store.

The potential is there for this to be a hugely valuable resource for the University, its students, and their future employers. Kudos to Teesside Uni and its students for delivering.

Thanks for reading


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DTW helps secure Project of the Year award for Northern Spire

Teamwork and collaboration are always at the heart of excellent communications. That’s why it was great to be alongside some talented partners to win a major award for one of our biggest client projects this week.

Sunderland’s Northern Spire bridge was named Project of the Year: Engineering, Construction and Infrastructure 2018, at the Association for Project Management (APM) awards in London on Monday (26thNovember).

We collectively beat off some stiff competition to win the award that recognises great project management. Northern Spire was up against a number of outstanding engineering and infrastructure projects from across the UK, including the Royal Navy’s new HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, medical research centre The Francis Crick Institute, Master Gas System Expansion Phase-1, by Saudi Aramco, and The Temperate House Project.

Karen and Chris from the DTW team have been working on site for the best part of three years, working alongside Atkins, Faithful+Gould, and AECOM, the Sunderland City Council team and main contractors Farrans and Victor Buyck, as well as numerous sub-contractors.

That has put communications and PR at the heart of the project and meant we have collectively been on the front foot when it comes to communication benefits and engaging with stakeholders.

Work began on Northern Spire in May 2015. During the three-year build programme, more than 2,000 people worked on the project, clocking up more than a million work-hours. It was built within its allocated £117m budget, two thirds of which was met by the Government and the remaining from Sunderland City Council.

During recent months, different aspects of the Northern Spire project have been recognised at award ceremonies up and down the country, from the design of the structure, to the methods used to construct it, project management and public engagement.

Collaboration is at the heart of what we do. Communications and PR has a part to play both internally and externally on big projects like this and we’re very fortunate that we get to work with some of the best in the business on this and other projects.

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DTW joins Northern Spire team to share tips on ensuring project success

The link between communications and PR and good project management is something we’re passionate about, so put us in a conference full of project managers and our ‘inner nerd’ starts to really show.

This week DTW joined the Northern Spire team at the Association of Project Managers’ Power of the Profession conference in Manchester.

Around 200 of the north’s leading project managers, from a diverse range of companies and sectors, including representatives from Shell, Northumbrian Water, the NHS and Transport for the North, gathered to share their best practice ideas on getting the most out of your people and processes in order to maximise production and success, and achieve greater outcomes for the community by managing projects more effectively and efficiently.

Key to the discussion was the importance of focusing on and communicating stakeholder and community benefits in project management, and the vital role stakeholder communication plays in ensuring the success of a project.

Members of the Northern Spire team from Farrans Construction, Faithful+Gould, Atkins and DTW exhibited, and presented to delegates on the importance of placing and communicating benefits at the heart of your project.

Here’s four DTW top tips for using communications to make your project a success:

  • Start with research and by listening to your stakeholders – communication is a two way street – make sure you listen to the concerns of your community – whether that is employees, customers, residents or retailers. Put yourself in their shoes, think about what their concerns are and make sure you address them.
  • Focus on benefits and tell your story – once you know where you are starting from because you’ve done your research and have clear objectives, take people on a journey and make sure your story focuses on the project benefits and outcomes at every stage.
  • Engage directly with people – be open, honest and transparent with your audience – even when you have bad news to tell them – and you’ll get the credit in the long run. It takes time, guts and sometimes broad shoulders, but remember that feedback is what you want – it will help you improve your project and deliver better outcomes.
  • Be a good neighbour – remember you are just passing through – projects are inevitably temporary, even if it doesn’t feel that way sometimes! You’re just dropping in as a temporary member of a real permanent community of residents, businesses or employees, and the project is for them, so putting their interests first is what it’s all about.

The communications budget on Northern Spire accounted for only 0.5% of the total project budget, yet the buy-in to community engagement, public and media relations from everyone, from Sunderland City Council, main contractor FVB Joint Venture, Atkins, Faithful+Gould, and sub-contractors on site, meant that communications ran through every fibre of the project.

Getting all of the project team on board took time and involved huge amounts of leg work at the beginning, however, the results far outweighed the budget and the effort, evidenced in the huge community pride demonstrated when the bridge was unveiled in August, and the 20,000 people who came to walk across the deck before it opened to traffic.

With communications, a little really does go a long way, and taking the time to involve people can make the difference between perceived success and failure.

Six months after a project is finished, very few people will remember whether it was delivered on time or on budget, but they will know whether or not they like it.

So, don’t leave that to chance. Take the community on the journey with you and then you will all arrive at the desired destination together.

Thanks for reading.


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DTW fastest riser in Prolific North Top 50 PR agencies

Let’s just start by saying that you always have to take any industry rankings with a pinch of salt, but this is one of the meaningful ones.

We’re very pleased that DTW has been ranked by Prolific North as #15 – and as the fastest riser – in Prolific North’s latest annual list of the Top 50 PR agencies across the north of England.

In a list dominated by Manchester agencies we’re classed as the largest in the north east, but more importantly than that, it shows the results of the really great creativity and hard work put in by the DTW team over the past year. Our focus is always on delivering results for our clients in our key sectors of infrastructure, government and membership organisations – so we’re really pleased.

As ever it’s a huge thanks to our team, clients and partners who make these things possible.

PS – Prolific North has a PR list, an integrated list and a digital list. Given that we operate across the increasingly blurred disciplines of PR, marketing, digital, design, video, animation and social media it’s always a bit of a head-scratching moment working out why you’re on one list and not another, but if you’re looking for strategic comms support please get in touch.

Thanks for reading


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Twitterstorms, Facebook meltdowns, Instagram explosions – how do you handle a crisis on social media?

What are the golden rules for managing social media in a crisis? Our MD Chris Taylor takes a look at how the UK public sector is leading the way and picks out his five top tips for using social media in a crisis.  This article first appeared in ESPO’s Spotlight magazine. 

If you work in the public sector, one thing you can guarantee is that ‘stuff happens’ (other words are available).

Another certainty is that when it happens, there’ll be a whole load of people queueing up only too ready to put the boot in and give the local council, NHS trust or emergency services a good kicking and a heavy dollop of blame.

It was ever thus, and always will be. Today though, we have the added joy and immediacy of social media. So where do you start when it comes to managing social media in a crisis?

Five golden rules

Here’s our five golden rules for engaging with your communities on social media when that ‘stuff’ hits the fan.

  • Plan in advance– if you’re stepping blinking into the sunlight without a pre-prepared and tested plan of what to do in a crisis then you’ve already lost. Think about involving your stakeholders and building and solidifying your key partnerships offline so you can all respond effectively and consistently online. You should also think about the channels that you will be publishing information on and who your audience is on each of these – carrying out an audit of your social media and keeping a handle on analytics on an ongoing basis is a good way of doing this.
  • Be accurate– when it comes to reputation, being right is more important than being fast (though that helps too). Rushing to publish before you are sure of the facts or guidance won’t just make you look foolish – it can actually make a real crisis situation much worse if you give out the wrong information or guidance. A steady hand is needed on the ‘publish’ button. It’s also critical to be proactive in identifying sources of inaccurate information and responding appropriately to avoid miscommunication and confusion.
  • Take ownership– if it’s your crisis, then you need to position your organisation as the key source of information – please follow us and share latest updates as we have them – the police in particular do a great job at this – but it’s a lesson we can all learn. It doesn’t mean you have to respond to every question – you can say we’re posting updates as and when we can confirm new information– it is a crisis after all. But do make sure the person heading up your communications is at the top table and informed at all times so the updates you do give out are accurate and consistent, and whoever is publishing that information follows an approvals protocol.
  • Be authentic– don’t just live in a social media echo chamber. What you do and say on social media needs to link with your actions in the real world – it’s no good just saying you care for example – you need to do something that shows you care (and video and share it so the world can see you mean it).
  • Be practical– think about what you’d like people to do and ask them (politely) to do it – people love to share and if your messages are simple and succinct (which they will be) you’ll find your online communities will be a massive help in spreading the word.

Remember, there is a silver lining. If you’re dealing with a major crisis or a challenging situation then you can guarantee your audience and community will have grown, which will give you greater reach and potentially greater influence when the smoother waters return.

DTW is an ESPO accredited supplier under Lot 9b of the 664 Consultancy Services Framework.

Chris is a Chartered PR Practitioner and a member of the national Council of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR). He has provided community engagement and PR support to transport projects like Mersey Gateway, Northern Spire and numerous energy-from-waste and other treatment facilities.

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Northern Spire: Hard hats and sequins – the secret to successful infrastructure communications

Karen and Chris are heading back to Sunderland shortly to do a joint event with Sunderland City Council’s communications team about all things Northern Spire from a PR perspective.

If you like the sound of that you can book a ticket on the CIPR North East eventbrite site and read on below to find out more.

“It’s all about hard hats, sequins and having a narrative that can really engage the community.”

Successful infrastructure projects take years to deliver – so where do you start, how do you keep people engaged and what do you need to do to get your regional project in front of 11 million people on Strictly on a Saturday night?

Hear from the award-winning communications team behind the success of Northern Spire – Sunderland’s new bridge.

Karen Westcott from DTW will be joined by Paula James from Sunderland City Council to give a behind the scenes look at all things ‘Northern Spire’ and outline how the project team has engaged the local community, stakeholders and the media over the past three-and-a-half years.

Get the inside story on hosting William and Kate on a secret Royal visit to a live construction site, running a school site visit programme for 2,300 children, persuading construction teams to create 10-metre high media viewing platforms at a day’s notice, dealing with the Strictly team, and achieving 99% positive/neutral media coverage and all the other things you need to do to put communications at the heart of a major engineering and infrastructure project like Northern Spire.

DTW Managing Director Chris Taylor will also share his insight on devising and delivering long-term campaigns for major projects tackling difficult topics, looking at issues like strategic planning, engaging at Board level, partnership working and staying on track through good times and bad.

All that and a bacon sandwich with a view overlooking the 105m high Northern Spire, the north east’s tallest structure and newest landmark – what more could you want for a Wednesday morning!

The CIPR NE event takes place on 14th November at 8am at Liberty Browns just next to Northern Spire.

See you there!

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It’s a 10! When the project you love takes centre stage on BBC Strictly

There are times in PR and communications when something pretty amazing happens – and for our Northern Spire team, and particularly me, that time has been this week.

After all, it’s not every day you manage to get your client’s brand new landmark bridge in front of 11million people on the biggest show on TV.

However, that is exactly what happened for Sunderland City Council tonight when its impressive Northern Spire bridge took centre stage alongside the stars of Strictly Come Dancing.

By taking a punt, and believing that with a lot of tenacity and a bit of good fortune the very unlikely can happen, DTW managed to arrange for actress and former Steps popstar Faye Tozer and her Italian dance partner Giovanni Pernice to rehearse their Foxtrot routine on the bridge deck before the cameras.

It was an amazing opportunity for Sunderland to showcase its new bridge to a huge national audience, and I have to admit that it was an incredible personal experience for me, too.

You see, I’m a massive Strictly fan. I never miss an episode, follow them all on twitter, and go to the live shows when they tour. My poor husband and three sons all know, and accept, that Saturday night (and part of Sunday) is ‘Strictly night’. I start singing the theme tune from about 5pm onwards and make sure tea is out of the way early.

So, having the opportunity to work with the crew and host Faye and Giovanni at Northern Spire – a construction project I have absolutely loved – was beyond exciting.

The hardest thing was keeping the whole thing under wraps, as directed by the BBC’s production team.

It all started back when the bridge opened at the end of August. We were busy promoting the opening on social media and we noticed that a certain Faye Tozer was taking an interest in the bridge and liking and sharing our posts on Twitter.

I knew that Faye had just been announced as a celebrity contender on the 2018 show, so set about trying to establish her link to Northern Spire.

To be honest, it wasn’t difficult. A dig around the internet told me that Faye was married to a Sunderland businessman, and they lived fairly close to the new bridge – so her interest was purely as a local resident.

What a result! What if we could actually get Faye and her yet-to-be-announced dance partner to rehearse on Northern Spire. How fab would that be?

It took a few attempts to make contact with Faye’s agent, but once we did, it was wheels in motion, and soon I was liaising with a Strictly assistant producer.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Filming on Tuesday, for me, at least, was a surreal experience. Faye and Giovanni came to the construction site, got ready in one of the meeting rooms in the staff cabins, had a chat over a cup of coffee and biscuit, and were a total delight.

Using my iron and ironing board (which I had been requested to take to site), a costume assistant prepared their outfits for the shoot. Meanwhile, Faye put the final touches to her make-up and Giovanni stripped down to his underwear to change into his costume – that was a treat I wasn’t expecting.

I loaned Giovanni my high vis jacket, in case it got cold between shoots on the deck, (the sun came out and it wasn’t needed) and I watched as Faye’s beautiful red satin gown and his shirt/underwear combo was ironed on MY ironing board.

We talked sparkle and glitter, what it’s like to be in the middle of the Strictly bubble, the media attention, and their busy training and TV schedules. It was all very laid back and normal, whilst being remarkable at the same time.

Of course, both Faye and Giovanni said they loved Northern Spire and rehearsing on the deck, while the crew, delighted with the footage they had captured, said their visit to the bridge was likely to be one of the highlights of the series for them.

Success all round.

So, it just goes to show how great things can come out of the blue from seemingly unlikely opportunities.

I guess the message for us all here is take every opportunity that presents itself, and don’t be afraid to take a punt, no matter how much of a long shot you think it is. You never know, you may just pull it off.

Keep dancing………….

Karen Westcott