Founder of content creation agency Human to Human, Polly tells us all about the power of words and what makes her creative brain tick.
Tell us a little about your work and your background
Communication has always been my thing. I was ‘that’ kid who would tape radio shows and make newspapers in their bedroom and I started to get articles published in national magazines when I was still at primary school.
My university degree was in multi-media journalism which was brilliant because it allowed me to move between radio, TV and print journalism seamlessly.
I joined the BBC as a journalist based at TV Centre and, as part of a development programme, I was so lucky to get really thorough training and qualifications and I worked on some incredible projects. Over my career, I’ve been fortunate enough to work on lots high-profile media – places like ITV, Channel 4... I’ve also written for pretty much every type of audience in print and online – such as BBC news, Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Glamour Magazine, Good Housekeeping, Psychologies and Men’s Health.
I’m really happy with my career path - all the things I’ve been lucky enough to do - and all the knowledge I’ve gained along the way.
What made you decide to start your creative business?
The idea for Human to Human came about after a stint in the PR industry. I was working with businesses who were struggling to hold people’s interest in their company because they were presenting themselves from all the wrong angles.
Their content wasn’t doing anything. They were trying to make a human to human connection with their customers but it was just missing the mark.
It made me realise that business owners simply aren’t exposed to the same kind of specialist knowledge that every successful media professional is, yet they’re essentially trying to achieve the same thing – to produce content that an audience wants to consume and feels a connection with.
So now I work with businesses to help them tell their own story and produce content that their audience – in other words, their customers or potential customers – actually want to read, or watch or listen to because it’s interesting and relevant.
It’s about bringing the expertise and knowledge of a media background to help businesses create that human to human connection with their audience.
Where do you find inspiration?
For me, it’s always been about words.
I’m a prolific reader and I’m constantly consuming new ideas and information – I’m obsessed by the power of words when they’re used the right way. The way they can connect, move and change us.
What we can do with words, the difference they can make and the impact they can have is what motivates me and inspires me. The right words can change how we think about things and feel about things in an instant. They literally create our reality and that’s massively exciting.
At the start of lockdown, one of my favourite writers published a post suggesting that we replace the word ‘quarantine’ with the word ‘retreat’, and with that one single word it changed how I approached the following four months. That’s powerful content.
I‘m driven to help people understand how important words can be and tell their story in the most powerful way.
Describe your typical working day (in the new normal)
Before the pandemic I used to love dividing my time between the bustle of my favourite café and the quietness of my office, depending on what I was writing that day.
In the ‘new normal’ I’m spending a lot more time in the office, but I can’t complain – it’s a gorgeous little timber cabin on the banks of the Thames and I find watching the boats and ducks go past quite relaxing. I thrive off being with people though so the ‘new normal’ isn’t ideal for me.
I know it’s frowned upon, but I do check my phone as soon as I wake up to see if there’s anything that needs to be responded to straight away before I reach my desk, with a strong coffee in hand, around 9am.
First thing, I spend some time connecting on social media, and reading about trends and changes in the industry as it moves so fast. The fundamentals of what makes content that connects never changes though, and the rest of the day is spent either talking through ideas with clients, coming up with angles for their next piece of content, researching more in-depth articles or writing.
What has been the biggest highlight and biggest challenge to date?
When I was working in mainstream media there were lots of big highlights that always sounded really impressive – interviewing the hottest celebrities; presenting on national TV; broadcasting radio shows around the world. At one point my show was being played through the speakers on the Sydney Harbour Bridge which was good fun. My daily radio show used to be broadcast in 23 countries around the world simultaneously.
But, as cliched as it sounds, there’s actually more satisfaction when a client tells me they see their business in a new light because of the way we were able to pull their story together into a cohesive narrative, or when somebody says that something I wrote, or one of my ideas, made a difference to them. The highlight is helping clients own their story and work out how to tell it in a way that connects.
The ‘backstage with rockstars’ stories just sound more impressive at dinner parties!
My biggest challenge is switching off. I’m constantly consuming other people’s content even in my free time so it’s hard to stop thinking about the business. Having three small children (2, 4 and 7) does help with that though. They’re hilarious so they’re a good distraction.
Best nugget of wisdom you can share with your fellow Creative Ducks?
Brene Brown said ‘Owning your story is the bravest thing you’ll ever do’ and I think most of us can learn from that. There’s a lot of artifice and smoke and mirrors in the business/content world but the only way to make a true connection is to authentically be yourself and own your story. In other words, take ownership of who you are, what you do, why you do it and how you want to tell people about it. Don’t apologise for who you are. Own your story – and tell it well.
Where can we find out more?