Shortlisted in the Investors in People Awards 2021

We are extremely pleased to announce that we have made the final shortlist for UK Employer of the Year – Platinum in The Investors in People Awards 2021. In a record-breaking year for entries, with nearly three hundred organisations involved, this is an outstanding achievement and one that everyone in the business is proud of.

The Investors in People Awards celebrate the very best organisations and individuals from around the world across various organisational, people, wellbeing and leadership categories. Each year hundreds of organisations from the UK and abroad battle it out to take home one of the sought after trophies to show their award-winning commitment to investing in their people.

Amanda Brooke, Managing Director, said:

It is a privilege to be shortlisted for this award; a clear indication of the dedication and hard work the team has invested in the business. We are passionate about developing our team to help us deliver our business aspirations, they are pivotal to our continued success.

Paul Devoy, CEO of Investors in People, commented:

Now in our 8th year, it always makes me feel immensely proud to see so many fantastic organisations staking their claim to be the best. And every year, the entries do get more and more competitive and the judging even tighter. Reaching the final shortlist is a testament to the amazing commitment these organisations are making to make work better for their people, and they truly deserve this recognition.

Step up to sustainability – how your business can reduce its carbon and plastic footprint

For years, we have been told about the prospect of climate change, and now, sooner than most expected, we are bearing witness to its effects.

The scientific evidence is that if we have not taken dramatic action within the next decade, we could face irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies.

This is one of the many alarming facts that Sir David Attenborough quoted in a recent BBC documentary: Climate Change – The Facts. For years, we have been told about the prospect of climate change, and now, sooner than most expected, we are bearing witness to its effects. There is also increasing concern about the impact plastics are having on the world’s oceans. Nearly everywhere you look, human beings are having a devastating impact on the natural world, and it is only by acknowledging the danger and making changes to our behaviour that we can preserve our way of life for the future.

At ExtraMile Communications we are embracing the challenges and opportunities presented by these issues and making changes for the benefit of our business, our employees and the environment. What can your business and staff do to make those small changes that contribute to a big change to your carbon and plastic footprint?

Environmental impact

What is a carbon footprint?

A carbon footprint measures the total greenhouse gas emissions caused directly and indirectly by a person, organisation, event or product.

The term footprint is a metaphor for the impact of something or someone on climate change. The term carbon is used to represent the collective greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming and therefore climate change. These include carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous oxide (N2O) and refrigerant gases. As a single item or activity can produce multiple greenhouse gases in varying amounts, a carbon footprint is expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalents or CO2e. ‘This means the total climate change impact of all the greenhouse gases caused by an item or activity rolled into one and expressed in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide that would have the same impact.

Businesses and other organisations need to consider several types of carbon footprinting, including organisational, value chain, product and supply chain.

What is a plastic footprint?

In 2017, the BBC’s Blue Planet II documentary highlighted the disastrous effects man-made waste and plastics, in particular, are having on the world’s oceans. The images and messages conveyed in the final episode of the series resonated with people all around the world and sparked an immediate change in thoughts and behaviour regarding plastic use.

The term plastic footprint refers to the amount of plastic used and discarded by an individual or organisation.

Here are some facts about plastic:

With some relatively simple changes, we can massively reduce the amount of plastic going to waste.

Why does it matter to your business?

The effects of climate change and overuse of plastics will have an impact on all of us. Sea levels will rise, depriving people of their homes and destroying vital infrastructure; weather events will change and become more extreme, causing casualties and damage that will put pressure on healthcare services and public funding; plant and animal species may become extinct, not only reducing natural diversity but affecting the ecological balance in ways we may not yet understand; and plastics will enter the food chain, killing some species and contaminating others with toxicity levels that will affect human health. The damage we are doing will impact the planet and its populations for generations to come.

Businesses will be affected by many of the issues mentioned above, as well as others including, for example, government legislation imposing levies and restrictions, and increased insurance costs related to climate change impacts. How much your business is affected will depend on factors such as location, activities, customer base and supply chain. 

It is also important to consider the other positive benefits to your company in changing attitudes and behaviours…

Companies can gain recognition as a result of changes to their environmental attitude and actions from clients, suppliers, competitors, industry bodies and the local community. It can be an important selling point, both for clients and employees, and can position your company as a thought-leader in your area of expertise.

Limiting the resources you use can help save costs as well as minimising waste. It may also be possible to receive tax breaks for reduced emissions.

You can adapt to changes on your own terms now which you and your competitors may be forced to make in the future. Businesses need to consider climate change as a strategic issue, with associated opportunities and threats, in order to really address the short-, medium- and long-term impacts. ‘The companies that will be best positioned to respond to the inevitable business and societal stresses imposed by climate change will be those that have recognised climate change as a strategic driver of business value, that have taken a longer-term view of the business implications of climate change, and that have built climate change into their capital investment decisions.

Solutions to lessen your environmental impact

Do your homework

There are many great resources online with advice for reducing your environmental impact, both individually and as a business (please see the Useful links section below). The solutions for your company will depend on lots of factors, and you can adapt the advice to suit your needs. There will be many small and simple changes you can make straight away, and other bigger decisions that will need to be assessed and implemented over a period of time. Any change is a good start and will motivate you towards further advances. If you don’t have the in-house resource or inclination to assess your environmental impact and potential changes, there are companies designed to do this for you.

ISO 14001

ISO 14001:2015 sets out the criteria for an environmental management system and can be certified to. It maps out a framework that a company or organization can follow to set up an effective environmental management system.

As an internationally agreed standard, ISO 14001 helps organisations to improve their environmental performance through more efficient use of resources and reduction of waste. By working to this standard, companies can reassure management, employees and external stakeholders that environmental impact is not only being measured but improved. This knowledge and the fact that some clients are obliged to work with certified suppliers to satisfy their own credentials can also give you an advantage over your competition.

This environmental standard is suitable for organisations of all types and sizes; for example, at ExtraMile, we are relatively unusual in the online marketing industry for being ISO 14001 certified. Adherence to the standard requires an organisation to consider environmental issues such as air pollution, water and sewage issues, waste management, soil contamination, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and resource use and efficiency. The standard has also recently been updated to take into account environmental management within an organisation’s strategic planning processes.

While it is possible to adopt ISO 14001 practices without third-party certification, it is this independent analysis that will demonstrate to your clients, suppliers and other stakeholders that you have implemented the standard properly, and that you are meeting any regulatory or contractual requirements.

ISO has produced a handbook specifically for SMEs to help them address the short-term technical and financial challenges involved in implementing such a system.

Culture

Getting the support of employees is essential if you want to make genuine and long-term improvements to your environmental impact. Not only will your staff be the ones to implement any changes, but they are also likely to be the most affected by them, so it is vital that you gain their understanding and approval in order to progress. The best way to do this is to involve them from the start, in discussions and decision making. Their participation may lead to solutions not recognised by management, and the more influence they have, the more invested they will be in the success of your environmental plans. It is also worth noting that by valuing opinions in this way, you can increase employee engagement, therefore reducing staff turnover and recruitment costs. Younger generations will be more highly motivated by this type of policy, helping you to attract quality team members.

Here are some changes that you can make to start your organisation’s environmental transformation:

Make environmental practices part of your training process and embed them as part of your company culture as much as you would the 11am/3pm tea break.

At ExtraMile, building on our ISO 14001 certification, we have recently launched a channel on our company messaging platform dedicated to climate change and the environment. Each week, the employees will be sent a particular fact followed by simple and realistic changes they can make to their everyday lives, both at home and in the office, to help combat the week’s issue. Everyone is able to contribute to the channel, sharing advice and resources to help support and motivate each other to become more environmentally aware and to limit our negative impact on the world.

It doesn’t matter how big or small you start (whether it’s taking meat off the menu like WeWork or bringing in reusable coffee cups for the van that comes around) – simply acknowledging the issues and the part you have to play in them will, hopefully, spur your interest and build the foundation for the future outstanding innovations to your company’s environmental practices.

Useful links

Here are some resources you may find useful. If you have any of your own that you would like to recommend, please get in touch and we’ll add them to the list.

Climate change and carbon emissions

Plastic use

Greener business

The Importance Of Quality Assurance On The Web

Whether something is broken, missing or just not fit for purpose – these are the questions a good quality assurance process can answer.

We all know how annoying it is when something doesn’t work as expected. Whether it’s the car that won’t start, the chicken curry with no chicken, or the teapot made out of chocolate, the negative effect on user experience can be long lasting… and websites are no different. So, is something broken, is something missing or is the thing just not fit for purpose – these are the questions a good quality assurance process can answer.

What is quality assurance?

Quality assurance is ‘The maintenance of a desired level of quality in a service or product, especially by means of attention to every stage of the process of delivery or production.’ It is a term often most closely associated with the manufacturing industry, but can be applied to the production of anything where a certain level of quality is necessary and/or desirable.

UX vs QA

User experience is key

Modern life is convenience – people want things quick, easy and enjoyable. The enormous amount of competition that most companies and products face means, it’s not enough for a kettle just to boil water: it needs to boil quickly, and quietly, and not spill, and feel nice, and look beautiful, all adding to the user experience.

Nielsen Norman Group, a leading UX research and consulting firm, define user experience as encompassing ‘all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.’ and at its fullest extent ‘comes simplicity and elegance that produce products that are a joy to own, a joy to use.’

User experience has become such an essential part of any business and product consideration that there are companies, associations and university courses entirely dedicated to it. And the science behind it is fascinating; for example, Space Between, an award-winning UX agency based in London, offers companies the chance to test key user experience journeys on their customers, using biometric testing, before analysing the results and suggesting improvements.

UX & QA forever

User experience and quality assurance go hand-in-hand. Anna Schmunk, Product Manager at Ramsey Solutions says that ‘QA and UX have a direct impact on what our customers experience, from flow to function. But more than that, they’re BFFs because both teams can have a symbiotic relationship. They have a huge opportunity to make each other better.’ There’s no point wasting time designing a beautiful website that isn’t built correctly, or one that is built correctly but doesn’t give the correct information. So before you go delving into the psychology of why a website is or isn’t working for your business, there are many more obvious things you can look at first.

Quality assurance on the web

What does it involve?

A website is a complex, many-layered creation, and therefore, the range of quality assurance checks involved must match the same level of detail. A website QA process will include visual checks (are images and text correctly displayed and formatted?), structure checks (are the sections on the page aligned and ordered correctly?), content checks (does the content make sense and is it spelt correctly?), usability checks (do the links work, do the forms work, does the site respond to changes in screen size?) and more general checks (does the built website match the design and does it do what you need it to?). The interesting and often challenging thing about these required checks is that they involve a variety of skill sets to identify and correct, which is why quality assurance at every stage in a manufacturing process can be more efficient and less costly.

QA should be performed on an entire website, on multiple browsers and multiple devices, and also on any email campaigns (even more vital as once they are sent, no further modifications can be made). While some checks can be carried out using computer programs, there is no substitute for a human-led quality assurance process that incorporates both automated and manual assessment.

Common problems

Visual errors in a website’s operation are probably the easiest to identify, if you look; here are some good examples of things that can go wrong.

1.) Incorrect formatting/alignment:

2.) Spelling errors:

3.) Icons and images failing to load, and also copyright dates not being updated:

Other errors may only be identified through user feedback or a reduction in conversions from website traffic. One advantage of a website compared to other company outputs is that it can be corrected following release. However, with brand loyalty such a fragile thing in today’s overcrowded marketplace, it is much better to identify any issues before they are found and reported by customers.

The quality standard

One way to acknowledge, assess and maintain quality standards is through the use of ISO 9001. This standard, which has been utilised by over one million different companies in 170 countries, demonstrates how quality assurance processes can be adapted and applied to any type of organisation, ‘large or small, regardless of its field of activity’, including ExtraMile.

The relevance of ISO 9001 to the creation of websites and other electronic communications is not automatically obvious, as they are not built to exacting standards or particular guidelines, as industrial products would be for example. However, the same basic value lies in having quality production underpinned by processes that can be used to maintain, analyse and improve standards. While there are no specifics for website standards, there is a level of expectation from users that needs to be met if a company is to see any benefit from their website.

Why does it matter?

The stats

The complexity of human psychology in combination with that of a website’s design, construction and delivery means any number of ways an interaction can have negative outcomes for businesses.

Bounce rate is a metric used by businesses to measure the percentage of people who land on a website and don’t go any further, which can indicate the quality of a webpage. This is important for all websites, but especially e-commerce sites, where lost traffic can more directly mean lost revenue. While some of that traffic may just not be appropriate for the site, the loss of the rest may be due to any one of the above issues, or a combination, or other issues including:

A website needs to do and be so many things, in so many different ways, and sometimes in many different languages, that the to-do list can be almost incomprehensible. But if quality assurance is worked into every stage of a process, it is a lot less daunting.

It isn’t over…

That’s it – it isn’t ever over. Quality assurance on the web is and should be an ongoing process. Whether it’s adding more pages to a site, changing a company’s entire branding, or changes in online trends that a company can utilise and capitalise on, quality assurance should always play a part, not only as the last stage in the process, but throughout conception, construction and delivery.

Quality is everything

Just as with physical products, a drop in the quality of a website can negatively affect individual customer perception and long-term company reputation. Quality assurance takes care of the short game, in terms of online conversions, and the long game, with a consistent and clear website demonstrating reliability and trust for a company and its brand.

Take a look at the Quality Assurance services from ExtraMile.

How to choose the right agency for your business

In an ever expanding and busy marketplace that is in a constant state of flux, knowing how to choose the right agency can be a difficult decision and one that could easily result in a convoluted process costing you both time and money.

To avoid the pitfalls and make the best decision, it is well worth an investment of time to consider and research the following key areas when choosing the right agency for your business:

In an ever expanding and busy marketplace that is in a constant state of flux, knowing how to choose the right agency can be a difficult decision and one that could easily result in a convoluted process costing you both time and money.

To avoid the pitfalls and make the best decision, it is well worth an investment of time to consider and research the following key areas when choosing the right agency for your business:

Relevant Experience

Most digital marketing agencies will provide some information on relevant experience. They are, after all, in the industry. It is crucial, however, that you research the experience they have in your desired area; whether this be design, ecommerce, WordPress, Magento, SEO and so on. You want assurance that they are experts within that field.

Not everyone is clear in the first place what they are looking for. For example, you might know you want a website, but you would not necessarily know a Joomla site from a WordPress site. It is worthwhile taking the time to look at not only their relevant experience in your desired area, but what they can offer overall. A digital marketing agency with an integrated approach will be experts in a range of solutions, not just one.

Values & Messaging

We all want to work with people and organisations who have integrity and do what they say they are going to do. A way to check this before you start working with a company is to embark on a little research beforehand to see what they say about their values and messaging. This will give you a good indication of the company you are dealing with.

Innovation

A good digital marketing agency blends technology with design to create innovative solutions. You want to be sure they are strong and creative innovators. Check their website, team pages and client recommendations.

Key Decision Makers

This is often overlooked because when choosing the right agency much of the onus is put on ‘them’, rather than, ‘us’. As you know, communication is key in business and definitely an area worth determining at the outset.

Location, Location, Location

In a nutshell, it does not matter. Just because you are based in one part of the country does not mean you have to use agencies only in your local area. Looking nationally (or internationally in some cases) can benefit you and your business.

Expectation

Before you start, be clear on your expectations and those areas you are not willing to negotiate upon; whether that’s cost, delivery timescales or content. Once again communication is key to ensure that the agency can deliver what you need and are happy to meet your expectations. Discuss with the people delivering the work as well as the sales team.

See how ExtraMile Communications perform Quality Assurance testing for your business’s marketing materials.

ExtraMile Communications celebrates 27001 certification success

The team at ExtraMile Communications are celebrating the successful certification of ISO 27001 Information security management, arguably the most rigorous in terms of the standards for its requirements and certainly the most prevalent, given the focus on security, post GDPR.

ISO 27001 is part of the ISO/IEC 27000 family of standards, and defines the requirements of an information security management system. This system is inclusive of people, processes and IT systems, and ensures all assets within these fields remain secure by applying a risk management process. This standard is in addition to the existing accreditations held by the company, ISO 9001 Quality management and ISO 14001 Environmental management, proving its commitment in operating to a set framework to achieve company objectives.

Enlisting the services of recognised ISO specialist, ISO Quality Services Limited, to assist with the implementation, allowed ExtraMile to look closely at all existing processes and procedures to ensure compliance, whilst also receiving constructive advice on the standard as a whole.

Gabrielle Hadley, Managing Director, said: “We are utterly delighted to be one of 40,000 companies across the world who have attained this valuable accreditation, setting us apart from other marketing agencies locally and globally”

See the other accreditations ExtraMile has been awarded!

In-house, or marketing agency?

You’re smart. You already know that in order to run a successful business in today’s market, you need an online presence. Not only do you need to be online – you need to optimise your efforts to be the best.

You could have the prettiest website in the world and a cutsie little Instagram page, but if nobody ever visits them, then what’s the point? Simply put… you’ve figured out that it’s time to start thinking about digital marketing.

Here begins the internal monologue.

We’re going to get a lovely new website. The old website is looking a bit dated and we need to showcase our business to all the potential customers or clients out there.

So, Dave in I.T. is pretty hot on this website building stuff, maybe he can do it. But wait – he’s really busy with all his other work. Hmm…

Maybe we can hire a web developer. That way, our website will be amazing and always stay up-to-date. Great idea – but wait again…

A web developer is great at building the site, communicating with hosts and servers and trouble-shooting any problems that arise, but can he design the site to work best for our business? Can he make it look appealing, work responsively, incorporate branding and use colour psychology to encourage our clients and customers to take the action we want them to take on our site?

Maybe we need to hire a designer too.

But then, we’re paying for a developer, and a designer, but when the website goes live how well will it perform? Will it rank in search engine results pages (SERP’s)? Will people click on to our site? Will our visitors turn into paying customers? What about the web pages? Are they written well?

At this rate, we will need to hire a web developer, a web designer, an SEO expert and content writer. Don’t get me started on our social media. And what about this PPC stuff that everyone is doing? Who knows how to create the campaigns, monitor the budget and create ad-copy that will generate business?

The reality is that all of the skills necessary to make digital marketing work for your business won’t come from one or two people. It takes different skills and talents in each area working together to create an online presence that will make a massive difference to your bottom line. Hiring in house will cost time and money. Staff will leave and the hiring and training process has to start all over again.

Hiring a digital marketing agency will ensure that you get a dedicated service. You will benefit from highly skilled staff who are experts in their field, working together to make your business stand out from the crowd.

Laura, SEO and PPC Assistant.

Meet the team at ExtraMile Communications to see what a difference we can make for your business.