Atlyn Forde: Communicate Inclusively – Transcript

0:00:13 – Tamara Littleton 

This is the Genuine Humans podcast brought to you by Social Element. I’m Tamara Littleton.  

0:00:18 – Wendy Christie 

And I’m Wendy Christie.  

0:00:23 – Tamara Littleton 

In our podcast, we’ll discover the stories of the leaders behind the brands and the trailblazers who are making a real difference in our industry.  

0:00:31 – Wendy Christie 

We’ll delve into how they got to where they are today, and we’ll hear about the genuine humans who supported and influenced them along the way.  

0:00:50 – Tamara Littleton 

Welcome back to Genuine Humans Podcast, and I’m here, as ever, with my fabulous co-host, Wendy Christie. Wendy, how are you doing?

0:00:52 – Wendy Christie 

Hi, Tamara, yeah, I’m really good. Thank you. I’ve just come out of a weekend of motorcycle exhibitions and unexpected guests, so, yes, happy to be back at work.  

0:01:03 – Tamara Littleton 

How are your unexpected guests turning up on a motorbike, or was that your active motorbike exhibition? 

Wendy Christie

Separate things. Yes.  

Tamara Littleton

Well, I’m feeling very relaxed after an incredibly lazy weekend, and I also checked out Wicked Little Letters with Olivia Colman, which is amazing.  

It was really great. I’m so excited, though, because we are joined today by Atlyn Forde, who’s Head of Engagement and Inclusion and also DEI Committee Chair at Pepper Money. She also took the leap and launched her own consultancy in 2022, which she’s going to tell us all about. It specialises in inclusive marketing and communications and is called Communicate Inclusively. Welcome to the podcast, Atlyn.  

0:01:48 – Atlyn Forde 

Thank you for having me. It’s an absolute pleasure to be here with you both.  

0:01:51 – Tamara Littleton 

Thank you, Thank you. So, can you give us a bit of a flavour about your own company and also what you’re doing at Pepper Money? But perhaps go back to your early career. I kind of want to know how you got to where you are now.  

0:02:06 – Atlyn Forde 

Well, that’s going to go back quite a while. I think I guess it’s important to start with even before my career started. So I grew up initially in inner city London, in Kilburn, and then, at the age of around 10, my mother and my stepfather decided to leave London and move to Bedfordshire. I think this was a great idea. At the time I was not very happy about being pulled out of school and leaving quite, I guess, a diverse area to go into an area which was not so diverse and where I did feel slightly different to everybody else. 

But you know, I did flourish there and I do think you know, as a parent now, I think it was a great idea for them to move us me and my brother that was to a beautiful house and into a great school and I really flourished there. 

I felt that I did excel educationally wise and I feel that my teachers and things opened my mind to the opportunities and possibilities. And I guess this is where social mobility may come into things, in that everyone was kind of, I guess, expected to go on to university and I think, maybe before I came there, that that wasn’t something that I’d really thought about. 

But you know, I was, you know, you know, one of the top people in class. In all of my classes, I mean, I, you know, really loved creativity and but I just wanted to do well and I enjoyed that and, as I mentioned before, I kind of was, you know, one of only a few black students in the school. I don’t think that was an issue, particularly although I noted it and especially as I still have quite a lot of connections with my family and friends in London,, and I feel like it kind of gave me two identities. 

Really, you know, during the week I was this very diligent student who really enjoyed being top, being in top sets and doing really well in class and also being quite good at sports. I was on the netball team and did trials for England and things like that. But then at the weekends and summer holidays, I’d go back to London and I guess this rebellious side would come out. I’d stay with my aunt. 

I was very close to my aunt, but she was less of a discipliner than my parents and Luton, and so I’d come and, you know, stay out late and do things, but then go back and be this diligent student, and I think that’s kind of how I am now to this day.  

I always say that, you know, people have this perception of me when they meet me. I speak quite well, etc. And I’m very much a professional. But I’m more than happy to hang out with some other, maybe less desirable people and go to places that people maybe wouldn’t expect to find me. But I feel very comfortable in both settings, in all settings in fact. I feel like I can speak and be around many different people and wear multiple hats at the same time, and I feel this is part of my personality. I just love variety and even now, in the introduction, you know I’m doing two very different roles in terms of, you know, being part of a large organisation and then also being a leader of my own and having my own team. But I think this is where I thrive and where I flourish and I enjoy that variety and diversity within my work but also follow my passion.  

So throughout school and college and university, I always wanted to get into marketing and communications.  

People at that time didn’t really know what that was, but I had a real passion for magazines and I would always buy magazines. You know some of them were quite expensive. You know ID and campaign and Vogue. You know I just loved looking at the layouts and that was my desire to be an art editor for a magazine and you know that’s why I went to university to do marketing and did other aspects of marketing. But really I wanted to hone my skills in regards to layout, desktop publishing as it was called then, and working with Illustrator and Photoshop and things like that.  

And so I did leave university and began my career in publishing, which I loved. I used to work on trade publications. I worked for Haymarket on some of their car titles and you know I was striving to get into art direction but actually was kind of more along the lines of kind of production editor and roles like that, because I guess, back to the variety, that I really enjoyed doing other things on the titles and the magazines. And then ultimately I left publishing. I mean that was a good thing because now I don’t recall my daughters ever buying magazines. 

I think my youngest daughter. Maybe I bought Barbie and things like that for her when she was very young, but it’s not really a thing now, although I do still have some of my old magazines and I still will look fondly at the magazine shelves but they’re getting smaller and smaller nowadays. 

0:06:39 – Tamara Littleton 

They’re lovely to hold as well, aren’t they? There’s something sort of very you know the, the physical.  

0:06:45 – Atlyn Forde 

Yeah, yeah, the excitement of looking at the cover and seeing what is that feature about

and just the photography, the layout. You know the, the physical, yeah yeah, the excitement of looking at the cover and seeing what is that feature about, and just the photography, the layout. You know that used to bring me so much joy. It still does to a certain extent. But, the other thing I used to really enjoy and again just thinking about this podcast was the Monday Guardian. This is my highlight. Like, oh, my goodness, this is all around marketing and media and all the job, the job sections.  

I found so many jobs in the Guardian on a Monday, but again, it’s a very different world now and as I left publishing and went on to more of a, I guess, a rounded kind of comms and marketing role, working for a number of professional associations including the pilots association, and this was a great segue into doing marketing within the travel and tourism sector, where I spent many, many years. 

The largest part of that was within the St Lucia Tourist Board, and I guess, following your passions, you know, St Lucia was where my family are from and where I’ve been as a child. And then, you know, having this job, where I got to promote this destination that I, you know, had such an affinity for and a love for, was amazing. But I’ll tell you a little story about this. When I initially went for the job role, it was for a marketing executive, but I’d already been a, I think, a head of marketing or head of comms at that time. So it was a bit of a demotion for me, although the product was amazing. 

So I was really intrigued by it and so I had the first interview that went really well, and then I was still considering whether this was the right role, because I’d have to travel quite a lot travel to St Lucia and travel around Europe and I had my first daughter at this stage. She must have been fairly youngish, maybe five or six, something like that, and so I remember it was during a school holiday because we decided to go to Lyme Regis.  

We had hired a cottage and we went down there and I decided that I wasn’t going to go for the second interview. This wasn’t going to be right for me to be travelling around the world. You know, I’ve got my daughter to think about and also it was a demotion. The pay wasn’t going to be as good as my current role and so I’d called and left a message with the person on the reception that I was unable to attend the second interview. 

And then, a couple of days later, you know, I had a call from the director and she was like oh, you know, we heard that you were unable to come. You must come for the second interview, you must come. And I was like well, I’m not really sure whether I want to or not, and I’m currently in Lyme Regis, which is hours away from London, and I think the interview was the next day. Anyway, she convinced me to go back to London, which I drove back to London for the interview and then came back again like in one day.  

But I guess it was destiny; it was meant to be. Obviously, I got the role and, you know, spent five amazing years at St Lucia and went from the marketing executive, where I was worried about the pay, to being the marketing director and running the whole shop. So that was, you know, a wonderful time in my career. I thoroughly enjoyed that. There was a lot of hard work, a lot of pressure, but, you know, some amazing experiences, including flying first class. I don’t know if I’ll get to do that again. I won’t be paying for it, that’s for sure.  

0:09:37 – Tamara Littleton 

I’m sure in the future there’s opportunities, clients paying for you to do it, of course.   

0:09:39 – Atlyn Forde 

Yeah, I mean it was we had good relationships with the airlines and I got upgraded. So again, even still, if I could afford it I don’t know if I’d pay for first-class business maybe, but we’ll see but it was amazing. And in fact, again, you know, things come full circle. So after the five years, I guess I’ve been working quite hard. You know we’d had a change of government and you are working directly for the Central Asian government, so that often would have an impact and ultimately I decided to leave. Well, just for that reason, but also because of the travel which was an issue, I was away a lot and it did have an impact on my children I had two children by this stage and so it did certainly impact them.  

And initially, when I left, I worked in a number of other travel organisations hotels and tour operators and even travel tech, which was great to kind of get a full understanding of the whole travel and tourism kind of sector. But ultimately I decided that I just couldn’t work in the sector anymore. Being the marketing director for an organisation where you’ve got full autonomy of the kind of marketing strategy, obviously, you’d have to pitch that into head office in St Lucia. But you know, as I said, it was kind of a highlight of my career, and working for these other organisations just didn’t seem to really cut it. So I decided to leave travel and tourism and go into financial services, and ironically that role was 15 minutes from my house. So I went from travelling the world and never being home to coming home for my lunch.  

0:11:14 – Tamara Littleton 

Oh wow, what a shift that must have been really lovely. 

0:11:18 – Atlyn Forde 

It was great. That’s when we got a dog, and I’d come home to feed the dog, and it was really positive. I must say, and again, ironically, you know, you feel like things happen for a reason. A few years later, this is when Covid hit, and obviously, the travel and tourism sector, obviously that had a real major hit, as did financial services, but I just feel that I think it was a slightly more cushioned in FS.  

Again, back to the variety, I just really enjoyed learning something different. It was a very different role. I was more focused on kind of insights and research, which I’d always had a keen interest in how they support marketing and communications and I feel the best campaigns are based around kind of insights and research. But also measuring the effectiveness of your marketing again delivers better outcomes as well. 

So I did a lot of work around that, but also work on the consumer and the customer and the broker within the financial services sector and what their needs were, how they felt about the brand, et cetera, which again was something that I’d done before, but not to that level and extent which was really enjoyable.  

And then around a similar time, this was in the wake of the George Floyd murder then our Global CEO, because Pepper Money has is a global business and we have businesses throughout the world in Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, etc. India and Mike had said in a town hall that you know they wanted to do more on DE&I. And then our CEO, Lawrence, had said something similar and I was like just intrigued by this because I hadn’t really seen anything on diversity, equity or inclusion the whole time I’ve been there. And so, for the first time ever, I reached out to Lawrence, our CEO at the time, and I just said, “oh, I’m really intrigued by this update on diversity, equity, inclusion. You know what are we doing?” Because I hadn’t seen anything and he was like, well, we haven’t done anything on it. You know, are you interested? And I guess it was a blank canvas, really, and I just took the bull by the horns, I guess, and you know, developed a team, a D&I committee, and you know, we started to go to work, really, in terms of what does the business need? You know, how can we make a change? And that was about four years ago and I guess it’s really had a transformation on the business and on me.  

I discovered a new passion of mine. I guess it’s also linked to my earlier years, and your colleague, Linn Frost, who was a mentor of mine, often spoke about your why. I thought I knew it, but I didn’t really. And we had a session once where I did get quite emotional. I’m not going to get emotional today, as mentioned, but it was really thinking about my why. Why do I do what I do? Why do I have these certain passions?  

And what I’d identified was that when I was younger, I mentioned that my mum and my stepdad had moved us to Bedfordshire because my mum and my dad had separated when I was quite young and he’d remarried and I’ve got two other sisters and a brother on my dad’s side and you know they were happily married and you know they had a beautiful house and my younger sister, who was not that much younger than me, about two years, you know, had all the things that I wanted. You know, I did feel very envious at that time, and I felt less than, and I think that really stuck with me and I felt that I guess what got emotional was that I’d realised that much of what I did in my career, this drive, this desire, ambition that people always said that I had, this determination, this independence was because I wanted to show them that I’m not less than that. I am equal and I will actually do better, and that’s something that I’m not proud of. That feeling, to be honest with you, but I do reckon I recognised as a driving force from when I was younger and feeling that life wasn’t fair, not everyone was treated fairly.  

I didn’t feel like I was treated fairly by my dad and we’ve got a fantastic relationship, as I do have, with my sister as well, but at the time I did feel that life wasn’t very equitable and even to this day I feel that when I see things that are unfair, I do feel a real strong urge to do something about it. You know, and obviously, recently there’s been, you know, the news about Diane Abbott, and you know, as a black woman, that’s really impacted me quite significantly, not just because I resonate with her and I admire her, but I feel it’s so unfair the way she’s been treated by the press and by others in government. I believe you know we’re all like politicians, but there are other politicians that are much worse than Diane and have nowhere near got as much stick as she has, and I do believe she’s got that stick because she’s a black woman. And I guess I’m just saying that because, again, it’s about being unfair.  

It’s not equitable; this is not fair what they’re doing to her, and that’s why I dislike it. As well as being a black woman, I’m really resonating with her story and feeling like we do sometimes have a harder journey than others and people don’t often recognise that. But I feel, you know, the reason why my passion for equity and diversity is there is because I feel that everyone deserves the right to be treated fairly. And also I’m just really pleased that I can combine my two passions, which is marketing communication, which has always been there from such a young age; although it’s not magazines, it’s still in the same light of using creativity to tell a story and to change people’s minds on things, to open their minds on things.  

Obviously, ultimately, sometimes you’re selling a product, but I feel like for me, it’s also really important that the product that I’m promoting and selling is something that I really love and I generally feel passionate about and I’m, you know it’s very authentic, but I don’t feel I have done this in the past actually work for organisations in the marketing team and not really love the product, and that hasn’t lasted very long. And so again, for others who maybe are considering a career in marketing, I guess it is you can do a better job when you really resonate with the product that you’re marketing, and so yeah, so I’ve been at Pepper for this time, and it’s a very entrepreneurial company. Since that message to the CEO, you know, I’ve developed a really good relationship with Lawrence, and he’s been a great supporter of me and initially, although I’ve always had the desire to have my own business and again, this is from a very young age too, and this could have been the “I’m going to show you, world, what I’m capable of” why I had one of those drivers again.  

0:17:35 – Tamara Littleton 

One of those drivers that was really sort of pushing it. 

0:17:37 – Atlyn Forde 

Perhaps it was. I’ve always. I’m also quite independent on this rebellious side, as I said. So I’ve always wanted to be able to do my own thing, not always being told what to do. And so I guess wanting to have a consultancy was also always a vision of mine, and for many years, it was a marketing consultancy that I wanted to have this on my vision board for so many years.  

And then I thought, you know, I’m getting a bit older now, gosh, you know running out of time, and I used to always look back, look at people and think, my god, you’re in your 30s, you’re doing this, you know, I’m way into my 40s, now when am I going to make the sleep of faith kept pushing it, kicking the can down the down the road, as it were, and, you know, I spoke to people, knew about my vision and I spoke to Linn, my mentor, about my vision, and although I’d been helping other organisations kind of side of desk, you know, I really wanted to be go at this idea of having a consultancy. 

And so, I had originally had a marketing agency called ALF marketing, just my initials, ALF. So I thought it was cool to call it that, although people would often say why is your agency named after that ugly monster character that was called with the long nose it was just my initials, but then I thought, you know, I really want to kind of widen the scope of my consultancy to be around inclusion as well as marketing and communications, and so communicate inclusively was born.

 You know, right now, you know I’ve got clients, and it feels amazing to be able to do help others and to have a real passion for what I’m doing and to make an impact. And I guess you can really see the impact that you create when you’re doing this work, and I love that. But also just the journey to launching the consultancy, it’s not easy when you’re the breadwinner, when you have a mortgage to pay, and you have this vision that you’ve had your whole life, but financially, how do you make it work? And you have this vision that you’ve had your whole life, but financially, how do you make it work? How can you make that leap to start your own business with zero clients while still being able to pay the mortgage? And this is what I think held me back for so long. But having spoken to my mentor, Linn, you know she gave me the idea to work part-time and to launch the consultancy and to be very transparent about that, and I guess within Pepper I had the opportunity to do that because many organisations, I guess, would not be so supportive for someone who wanted to do this, but I feel that it’s the best of both worlds. You know I’m still so passionate about Pepper. There’s still so much more to be done there.  

In going part-time, I took on the role of head of engagement and inclusion, which was different to my original role, and I think, in light of consumer duty, there’s a lot of work for organisations in financial services to do around centering their work around the customer and creating customer inclusion and financial inclusion.  

You know, education of people around financial products and financial services is still very low and this comes down to marketing and communications and engagement. You know how do we make it easier for people to understand around financial service products and making decisions around this. So I’m really excited about that. And also, the fca is bringing that regulation with regards to diversity, equity, inclusion. So again, more fs companies will have to be thinking about their inclusive practices misconduct that obviously right now it’s around financial misconduct, but non-financial misconduct and the way you treat your employees and your customers in relation to inclusivity will also become a regulatory requirement. 

And so, again, there’s lots to be done for Pepper. But equally, you know, I’m so excited about communicating inclusively. I feel like the work I’ve been doing over the last year and a half is, you know, really coming to fruition. It’s all been about really just sharing content. I’ve just created so much content because it doesn’t seem like work to me talking about this topic.  

As you can see now I can talk all day about it, but you know, we’ve created a lot of great resources for people who, I find, when it comes to inclusion and inclusive communications and representation, they just don’t know where to start sometimes, and I feel that’s the biggest thing once you get started, I think it becomes easier. 

And so, you know, the resources were really for people at the start of their journey, organisations and leaders at the start of their journey, and for them to think about just taking a small step forward. I feel some people just stick their heads in the sand because they don’t know where to start, and I launched a training programme called the Diversity and Inclusion Changemaker Programme, and that’s been successful, and we’re launching a cohort, a second cohort in September, and, in addition to talking about diversity and inclusion, we talk about engagement and sharing your message, telling your story, because I thought this is where the success has really lied in terms of being able to tell a story of inclusivity in a way that people can relate to. I feel a lot of consultants who do D&I do great work, but they’re not necessarily communicators or marketers and know how to present this information in a way that is digestible, really thinking about it from the audience perspective and the layer that, with the insights and research piece, you know in terms of delivering comms that are relevant to the people that you’re speaking to, right, so understanding the audience through your insights and research and you know, creating your comms around that. So I feel, you know, Communicate Inclusively has a lot to offer in terms of our USP, but also, you know, I do really want to, you know, speak more about the kind of comm side and inclusive communications.  

I just don’t think everyone really fully understands what that means around the creative process and starting really early with that in terms of the people who are in the room. When it comes to that creative process and being authentic, not using stereotypes, which you see so often and I know using stereotypes is a way of making things relatable because people recognise the stereotype instantly. But I do feel that marketers have got a lot of power in terms of representation and how they tell a story can be a bit lazy just to go with a stereotype. Why can we not create a new story as it should be, as we want it to be? That’s the power that we have as the gift that we have as marketers, and I’d love to see more creative work. I. I actually saw over the weekend and today. It’s been shared quite widely this video around Down Syndrome and I just thought it was fantastic.  

0:23:54 – Tamara Littleton 

It’s amazing, isn’t it? It’s really powerful and even like the way that it’s shot and, yeah, very, very powerful.  

0:24:03 – Atlyn Forde 

Yeah, so this really resonated with me. I just thought this they’re taking time to really think about, you know, the story they’re trying to tell, and it just resonates so deeply, not just with people who have Down Syndrome but just in life in general. You know, you make assumptions about people, put them in a box and then they can’t get out of the box, you know, because our expectations of them are lower than they could they ever should be. So again, I just thought that was a great piece of creative work, and I hope it will resonate with other people and that people will start to understand that we shouldn’t be putting anybody in a box, no matter what their background is. And this is what I was talking about the beauty of combining inclusivity with creative comms. You know this is what it’s all about.  

0:24:49 – Tamara Littleton 

Really, I’m loving the passion and also the fact that you know that you’re working for a company that believes in entrepreneurship as well and is actually actively supporting it, and I think that’s an incredible thing, that you’ve been given that space to do both and actually have the best of both worlds and why not? I think more companies should do this, and more entrepreneurs should take the leap and found their company, and maybe there are so many different ways, so I love that story. Thank you. I Love what you’re doing, and I love your story.  

0:25:24 – Wendy Christie 

Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us there, Atlyn, for going back and talking about childhood as well, and we do like to sort of pick at that a little bit and pull out the themes. But actually, it feels like some of the themes are pretty clear with you and it sounds like you know. It’s quite refreshing to talk to someone who says I wanted to work in marketing and communications from a young age because so often it seems to be a thing that people fall into, so before you knew that’s what you wanted to do, did you have any other ideas about the kind of thing you might have wanted to do when you grew up?  

0:25:59 – Atlyn Forde 

It’s so hard to think about now because I feel I am. I make decisions quite spontaneously and quite quickly, but once I do, I’m just overly committed. I do recall that my careers teacher had said to me that I should get into sports, and just looking back at it now, I’m thinking, was that like a microaggression or was that linked to the fact that I was good at sports? But I was also very academic. And so now I just feel that if that was me as a careers teacher, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend for a child who’s gifted quite bright to go into sports. I’m not taking anything away from that; I just feel that you know, was that a representation because I was a black person? I was black, people are very good at athletics and that’s kind of where I felt it was coming from. But for me, really, I just don’t ever recall really wanting to do much else.  

I know that I was very excited by travel, and you know, ironically I got into that later stage. But I always had this vision of wanting to be a pilot. You know, I didn’t really pursue that, but again, I was always intrigued by the pilots when I worked for the Pilots Association school, BALPA, and I’d always look for women pilots. You know, I just love to see this, and there was still are very rare to see. And then what I find is so funny that I was just trying to do this thing, that parents do pressure my daughter, like have you ever thought about being a pilot? 

You know it’s such a great career. She’s like, what? And I know it’s brilliant. You know you’re trying to live out your dreams for your children. I just love seeing female pilots.  

I don’t know why it’s the thing that I’d love to see more of, and so I guess I never, ever pursued this career, but it was something that I would have loved to have done. I just always felt I wasn’t clever enough to do that. Oh, and there was another one career that again back to, I guess, to do the hard work was around architecture, and, again, because this was linked to creativity and I was, you know, quite good at art, I thought about, you know, becoming an architect, but then I had to do seven years at university. I was like, oh, oh, no, I haven’t got seven years to become an architect, so that idea quickly got thrown in the bin. So those are just some of the things that I had considered but never really pursued to a great extent, right?  

0:28:10 – Wendy Christie 

Did you have particular people that you looked up to as a child? You talked about your aunt earlier, who sounded like she was good fun. Was there anyone else that you looked up to?  

0:28:18 – Atlyn Forde 

My aunt and my cousin. They have continued to be an inspiration, actually. So my aunt was the first person to go to university within our family, so that was great to see. She was also a lover of books and reading and all her books around, and this really inspired my interest in reading. 

And my cousin, who I’m very close to because I spent a lot of time with my aunt, obviously, and that was her son; he is an enigma, I guess. He has always had this kind of carefree spirit but has always managed to get out of things. So, as children, we used to always get up to naughty things, and he’s always found a way to not get in trouble, and I’d always thing, “This is awful, how is this possible? You know that he would, you know, be the instigator of some of the things that we’re getting up to, but somehow, it always ended up having a shine on him and not having any problems. And I think this has really, you know, continued through life. You know, I just admire him so much for what he’s done. You know he hasn’t had the easiest ride, but you know, he’s a fantastic entrepreneur. He owns a world-renowned bar in Portobello and him and his partner have recently opened a restaurant there too. Now, you know, it’s just amazing that he’s always been authentic in what he does, again followed his passion. So, you know, my cousin has been someone that I really admire and look up to, and my aunt has been an amazing person.  

Really, I feel that not only in terms of inspiring me, but you know, I went through a divorce as well. That was while I was travelling, and you know, my aunt became the father figure in my family. I say that because when I was travelling, I used to just call on my aunt to say, ok, can you come and watch the children? And she would be there. You know, she would come and stay at my house for a week whilst I travelled overseas, and so, just in terms of my career, it wouldn’t be where it was without my aunt.  

So she has been a fantastic supporter of mine, and anyone who knows me personally, or even professionally, knows how important my aunt is to me, and I guess I don’t want to get emotional, but she’s not very well at the moment and so you know that had been really difficult, but you know, I had, you know, kept it under control for a while and then she had to go into intensive care and I was just like, “oh my God”, this is like catastrophic for me really, and so I’d messaged some of my key friends. I said. “I don’t want to talk about it right now, but my aunt is, you know, she’s not very well, and all of them, immediately, just like bombard me with messages, you know, because they know how important she is to me. But she’s doing better now. 

But I guess you just have this realisation of how important people have been in your lives and how much not only have they inspired me but supported me, and I feel just, you know, giving my aunt a shout out and saying thank you for all that you’ve done to help me along my journey, but not just for my children, I mean, they see her as a key figure too. 

And I guess also another thing that I take from her is her kind of empathy, which is something that doesn’t always come naturally to me. You know, for seeing how she is so empathetic, so supportive, so caring to everybody in our family, it really, I guess, is a role model for me in terms of how I can be more empathetic and more of a people person, and I guess that’s also why my friends have reached out, because you know she’s like empathetic to them too. 

You know everyone who’s around her really warms to her. I guess it’s great to have someone around you that can show you how to be this caring person. You know she’s not necessarily your average career type; it’s not about that. Really, her role modelling is around how to be a good human being and how to show care and consideration for others, and so, yeah, I definitely give her credit for that as well. 

0:32:12 – Wendy Christie 

She sounds amazing and I’m really, really pleased to hear that she’s you know she sounds like she’s getting better. You’ve mentioned Linn frost a couple of times as well and tomorrow, and I are obviously big fans of Linn. Has there been anyone else in your career who’s kind of supported or influenced you that you want to give a shout out to?  

0:32:32 – Atlyn Forde 

Oh, there are so many. I’ve mentioned Linn already, but I will just mention her again. We were paired via the Marketing Society, which does a great job, and, you know, I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor in Linn. She is very unique in terms of the way that she really cares about people, but also just her experience and her approach to life. You know, I’ve been blessed to have her as a mentor, and so, yeah, thank you, Linn, for everything, all the guidance and the great coffees at Soho House. That’s been fun. But also, I’d say I’ve been blessed throughout my career to have different people within organisations who have really seen something in me.

I mentioned, you know, St Lucia and getting that call when I was in Lyme Regis, and that was Patricia, the director at the time, who is now a good friend of mine, and you know she saw something in me, and she’s always been a great sponsor, mentor, friend, someone that I admire, you know, for her work, and so I definitely want to give Patricia a shout out. 

And then I also mentioned Lawrence Murray. He’s the CEO of Pepper Money. He’s been a fantastic supporter of mine, and I really appreciate to this day all that he’s done, the time he’s given and the opportunity. 

And Simon Martin. He was the chief marketing officer at Pepper. He’s no longer with the organisation, but he was a great champion of mine as well.  

I think it’s so important to have champions behind you, and I’ve tried to, and I continue to do this for people who I have a good connection with, who I see that need that push, that step up, that sponsorship, those kind words when they’re not in the room.

You know, through Communicate Inclusively, we have a team of people who have flourished, and our first intern, who’s been with me for over a year – they start off as interns and they just don’t leave – you know she got another job about a month ago and I was just so proud of her to see the journey she’d been on and I was able to help and support her through that journey and that she could go on and get a fantastic role, a marketing executive role, for another organisation. 

I love that I’ve been able to support people and not just be their manager but support them. You know, look at their CVs. You know, looking at CVS for another job. I’m happy to help you to find another job, share job adverts and stuff, because this is the whole purpose of it. You know I’m a startup consultancy, and you know I’ve been able to find amazing people that want to work with us. But I also want to give back to them. It hasn’t always been, I guess, your traditional role in terms of the way we work,  but I believe you know I want to be a supporter for them, I want to be an advocate for them and I’ll do whatever I can to do that, and also within Pepper Money. 

I feel that there are people, this lady called Anne, she’s fantastic, I have to give her a shout-out. And you know she came to the UK from Vietnam and did a Master’s and she doesn’t mind me sharing this, but I remember when she started with us, she was so enthusiastic, you know, I could just tell from the first interview with her that she was going to be a real asset to the organisation. She’d looked me up on LinkedIn and no one else who’d been for the interview process had done that. She connected with me on LinkedIn and had said how great it was to meet me, and I just thought, wow, look at that enthusiasm. That was great. You know, she was definitely the one for the role and she got the role.  

And then, I think in her first week, I was like, oh, you know so, because she was studying in Brighton for her Master’s and so obviously we were based in London, and so I said, oh, at least she’s looking for somewhere you know to rent, somewhere to move to. And so I said, oh, you know, where are you, where are you staying?  

And she said, “Oh, I’m in a hostel”. And I was like, are you sure? I just couldn’t believe the journey that some people have taken. You know, we take for granted, you know, that everyone’s got a place to stay, but you know she’d come from another country. She’d, you know, done her master’s. She is a talent, so bright and intelligent and on this journey she was willing to live, you know, in a hostel for a few days whilst trying to find her fee. She had this job, but she hadn’t had her first paycheck yet. 

You know, I just admire her so much for her grit and determination, her positivity. She’s got such a great energy. You know, in addition to that, I was happy to support her in getting,  a working visa for the UK, she had a graduate visa, and again, know, I just think it’s really important to help and support people. You know, for that, you know, she was it’s like a weight off her shoulders having this visa, and I can never really appreciate how important that is for people. And so, just to say, for others, you know, you don’t realise the power you have in terms of how you can help and support others, but sometimes even small things can make a big difference, and I guess this is what we talk about allyship quite a lot. Allyship is really key in terms of a culture within a business, but as individuals, how we can be allies to others and to look where the support is needed and to offer that, and so I’ve had many people along the journey. I’ve only named a few here, but there are many others who have helped me on my journey, and I’m forever grateful to them, and I look forward to doing the same for many others on my journey as I continue. It’s such an important thing to do, and it’s so rewarding.  

0:37:42 – Tamara Littleton 

Let’s just talk about your journey, actually, because you’ve kind of gone on this entrepreneurial journey yourself, which is hugely exciting, and obviously, you said that it’s something that you’ve had on your vision board. You’ve been wanting to do this for a while. 

Obviously, you said that it’s something that you’ve had on your vision board. You’ve been wanting to do this for a while. Now that you’ve actually started it, I know, from my point of view, that you learn a lot on the job, as it were, and there’s a lot of that sense of you don’t know what you don’t know. But what can you share with us about what you have learned over these last couple of years? 

0:38:17 – Atlyn Forde 

I guess the key thing that I’ve learned is that having a viable, financially sustainable business isn’t just about having a passion for what you do. In order to have a sustainable business, you need to have clients, and so a lot of the focus has been around setting up systems and processes and focusing on that pipeline of clients. You know, I feel confident that once we have them, we’re going to do an amazing job. But you know I haven’t particularly done sales. It hasn’t really been something that I’ve focused on. But for my team, you know, they’re probably sick and tired of me talking about our pipeline and our outreach, but I think it’s a really important thing for entrepreneurs to prioritise because, without it, you just don’t have a business.  

And so I mentioned at the top of the conversation around sharing content and being helpful, and this is really how we approach ourselves. We want to be helpful to as many people as possible and share our content and our resources freely because I feel this is a great way to get people into your funnel and for them to see what you do try before you buy, I guess. 

But also, I think it just builds a relationship. People are happy to have a conversation about something that’s relevant to them, that they’re working on, and if you can be helpful maybe they don’t need your services right now, but I’m sure in the future if they found what you shared helpful, then you’ll be at the forefront of their minds.  

Equally, things like speaking opportunities, podcasts, webinars, and I do quite a few webinars that I’ve hosted myself. I do love doing them, but it’s a great way to kind of show your expertise and to build rapport with the people that you’re speaking to. But also for the guests and our recent client. They had said they’d seen some one of my webinars, some content that I’d produced, and that’s what enabled them to make contact with me.  

So I guess my lesson is to focus on sales, if you can, and to be consistent with that whilst doing everything else, because I just feel for me, you know, I love this consultancy, this business, and I’d feel so, you know, disheartened and upset if it were not to continue. But again, without the numbers, without the finances, without the revenue coming in, the business does not exist, and so I guess this is the biggest lesson is around that because I hadn’t in my vision board that is what I was envisioning. 

My vision board was around having all I was envisioning. My vision board was around having all these amazing clients and award wins, et cetera. But you know you have to do the work in terms of getting those clients through the door, and hopefully, at some point, you know they’ll be coming to me, and they have been, but I do think you have to put the effort in in terms of doing the outreach as well. Absolutely.  

0:40:54 – Tamara Littleton 

Obviously, we’ve talked a lot about inclusive marketing. Can you just go into a bit more detail about what does that really mean for you?  

0:41:04 – Atlyn Forde 

Yeah, I mean, for me, it means so many things, and I guess what I think is important is really what it means to the client really, because for each, each client, it’ll be something very different, and so it could be around things like website content. I feel that you know, if you have a look at a lot of websites, the language isn’t very inclusive where the comms are written, and so I feel a lot more work needs to go into things like that in terms of, I guess, making the content accessible. 

So, you know, quite often we can get carried away and use language that sounds beautiful, but if people cannot understand what you’re trying to say, then it’s not doing its job, and so I think around language is really important, whether that is on a website. Obviously, websites, you’ve got a lot more content on there, so you can really have a look around, but that’ll be in anything, you know, I think, like brochures, any kind of written comms, emails that go out. Emails sometimes are very long, and I’m always telling my team you know, shorten it down. If you can say it in five words, why say it in 20, you know. 

So I feel like, for me, that language is very important, and also, I think, in terms of, you know, the language piece, we’re doing a lot around inclusive communications, inclusive language. It’s around the stereotyping, the use of masculine pronouns and framing content around men. People don’t even realise they’re doing that and I think people are open to this conversation, but they just need someone to maybe just pinpoint some of the things that they’re doing.  

And also with regards to representation. So I was looking at, you know, a financial services website. It had a section around, I think it was adverse credit, some products that were around helping people with adverse credit, and the pictures were of a single parent, well, just a mother and a child, and another one was of a black couple, and another one was of something else. I just thought this is just a glaring stereotype. Can we please look into changing these images? And the people are, oh gosh, we hadn’t even realised. And that’s the thing. It’s such a blind spot for people in terms of the marketing and communications, which is why I mentioned around having the right people in the room, because sometimes, if it’s not your lived experience, you won’t notice that, or if you haven’t had you know someone point it out to you or be on a training course, I feel there’s people just naturally go with what feels comfortable to them. 

But you have to remember that marketing is all about the audience, it’s not about you, and so it’s centring what you’re doing in terms of how it’s going to be received. And I think people often think about, oh yeah, we’re doing a great job. You know, look at the TV ads. You know they’re very diverse. Now, you know, and it’s great, very positive to see that. 

You know, I do feel there are aspects of stereotypes and tokenism within that, but you know, I don’t want to distract from that being. You know, there has been progress, and so for me, in terms of supporting organisations, it is around preparing comms but also looking at what they’ve currently got. That is more inclusive. It’s around representation of all kinds, not just around race, but of all different kinds, and that could even be with regards to, you know, couples around age. You know, you often see young, beautiful people. You know, what about diversity of age? What about the diversity of relationships and families? Again, the family makeup is very different now, and so I just think it’s just about that giving a lens in terms of being more inclusive in terms of the representation.  

I also think another issue is regards to recruitment. People often say oh, you know, we’ve tried to recruit, you know it’s just difficult, you know we can’t. The same people keep coming up, coming and applying for the jobs, and I would say you know, have you looked at the language in your recruitment ad? 

Have you looked at where you’re promoting this ad, this just job? Is it the same places? I mean, people revert to LinkedIn, which is great, but there is other places you can advertise your jobs. You can share a link to that job via WhatsApp or to other groups, you know, to reach a wider audience, but you have to be intentional about it. Just doing what you’ve always done and expecting diverse people to come towards you is just not going to happen if it hasn’t been happening. It’s not going to happen unless you make a change yourself. And again, that could be with regards to the language that you use. You know, words that can be more appealing to women versus men. You know the experience, the educational requirements, etc. And so, yeah, I’m also excited about helping organisations in terms of their recruitment advertising as well.  

Back to the websites, if you’re going to apply for a job, what’s the first thing you do? You look at the website. How inclusive is this organisation? Quite often, people may be doing more things just haven’t really thought about being a part of their brand in terms of their, attracting new people into the organisation. They’re checking you out, the same as the way clients are checking you out, and the best talent want more. You know, the best talent can be quite demanding in terms of their requirements, and so, again, I think that side of it is really important as well. So the reason why I said that at the beginning was with regards to it’s about the client, because I think it can be quite diverse when it comes to marketing and communications in terms of what the client requires, and for me, it’s all around tailoring what we do based on where the client is at that moment in time.  

I’m also doing some work within the travel and tourism sector and launching an inclusive travel forum, and, again, one of the benefits of switching to another sector is that you can look back and say, oh wow, why isn’t that sector doing it? I know they are very different, and you know, many of the businesses in FS have got bigger budgets than travel companies, admittedly, but I do think there’s a lot of work to do in the in the travel and tourism sector, and I do feel that there are many smaller organisations, like travel agencies and tour operators, that just don’t have access to consultants, and so the forum is really about, you know, creating this community where people can get access to resources to help them to be more inclusive, but equal to that. 

I also think, in terms of the marketing within, travel and tourism could definitely do a bit of a shake-up, and I know people are, you know, taking notice of this, but I still think the way they envisage a traveller is very different to the reality and the way people travel. You know, in terms of solo travellers. Now, I know there are more companies that specialise in it, but you still, it’s not the common thing. It’s still the heterosexual couple walking along the beach as the sun sets. You know, it’s still, I’d say, very traditional in its approach and its marketing and comms.  

You know Virgin has done some great work and have been trailblazers in terms of its marketing communications, but it shouldn’t just be for these large companies. Culture trips have also done some amazing work, so there are companies that are doing. I’d love to just see it more with some of the larger companies, the TUIs, you know, the, etc. You know, to see them more, the airlines being more inclusive, and you know they’ve got a lot of work to do in terms of the product as well, in terms of, you know, being accessible, and so, yeah, there’s there’s so much to do really, it’s just no, there’s so much, and we’re huge fans of what you’re doing, and, and I can’t wait to see what you get up to, uh, over the years as well.  

0:48:06 – Tamara Littleton 

We’re now going to switch gear, though, so it’s now very I want to know even more about you. So we’re going to do some kind of quick-fire questions, and I’ll let I’ll let Wendy take the first one; we’ll ease you in gently.

0:48:19 – Wendy Christie 

So what’s your idea of a perfect weekend?  

0:48:22 – Atlyn Forde 

I guess maybe it’s a sign of me getting older, but I do think having a weekend where I get to relax can be quite nice, and I need to be intentional about adding those to my calendar. I feel that you know, I always feel I need to be doing so much, you know, out there having fun with friends and family, travelling, spending time with my partner, etc. But I do think putting time in to just sit back and not do very much can be really exciting. So I guess it’s been a busy few months, which is why I guess at this moment in time, a good weekend is sitting on the sofa watching a tv, watching the TV with a glass of wine and some nibbles sounds perfect to me.  

0:49:03 – Wendy Christie 

So let’s say, imagine you’re walking on stage, maybe you’re about to do a big presentation or something, and there’s an intro track playing. What is it?  

0:49:12 – Atlyn Forde 

Oh, wow, that’s a really good question. I thought you were going to say what do I say to myself? To be honest with you, the music becomes insignificant because I’ve got my own voice in my head saying come on, alan, you can do this, which is what I always say. Occasionally, when I’m at home doing something, I’ll say out loud on my kids a little. Here she goes again, pumping herself up. I’d love to come back to you with a soundtrack because, as I said, quite often, when I do go onto stages, like everything around me just blurs and it’s just. Everything is in my head until, like, I get out there.  

0:49:44 – Tamara Littleton 

So what is it that you say to yourself before going on stage? And it’s just oh.  

0:49:49 – Atlyn Forde 

I say, come on, Atlyn, you can do this.  

0:49:51 – Tamara Littleton 

I love that. I love that. Okay, different question for you then what’s the last thing that gave you childlike joy?  

0:49:59 – Atlyn Forde 

This is a bit of a weird example because it was on Mothering Sunday and I guess I’m the mother, so you wouldn’t think it would be a childlike response. But I guess my two children, had, you know, bought me some flowers and some chocolates and a beautiful card and made breakfast for me and had booked this Japanese restaurant. So we went to Japan last summer and had a fantastic time, and so you know, Japanese culture and Japanese food is a big thing for us at the moment, and I just felt really excited and thankful that I didn’t have to organise any of it.  

Normally, I’m always the one that’s organising everything you know, and it’s fun to do it, but when it’s been organised for you, that does make you feel really childlike and a high level of excitement. So I’ll have to say that was for Mother’s Day. I did feel really special and appreciated. So, yeah, a big thank you to my two children, Kyra and Freya.  

0:50:58 – Tamara Littleton 

That’s lovely. What’s your biggest pet peeve? I’ll share one of mine to give an example. I can’t bear it; when I walk up to the Pelican Crossing, and there’s a whole crowd of people waiting to cross, and no one’s actually pressed the button, it drives me absolutely bonkers; I’m just. I have to hold myself back from saying what is wrong with you? Why did no one press the button? But, uh, so that’s one of my weird ones. Have you got any pet peeves?  

0:51:26 – Atlyn Forde 

I have, and I guess it doesn’t sound very forward-thinking. But my pet peeve at the moment is, you know, commuting and travelling. I have. I do have my cards on my phone, but when I travel I always use my plastic because I just feel that as you get to the barrier, be prepared. We know we’re gonna have to go through. That’s my pet peeve is right now, when people have got their phone, and they’re just like tapping, trying to get the thing to do what I’m just like, why yes, and then they just stand and don’t move, like if it’s not working, move to the side, someone else will go through.  

I’ve got my plastic with me, so I’m ready to go. So that’s my pet peeve at the moment: people with their phones and delaying. Yeah, it’s the same with people travelling.  

0:52:04 – Tamara Littleton 

It’s like if you’re going to go through security, you should have already taken your belt off got everything organised in a bag; why would you not do that?  

0:52:11 – Atlyn Forde 

Quite often I just have got no idea why you’re not ready when you get there.

Wendy Christie 

How would your friends describe you? My friends would describe me as, I guess, reliable. I do what I say I’m gonna do, unless I pet peeve too when people don’t so.  

I’m reliable, I’m ambitious, I’m determined. I’m loyal. No nonsense, don’t suffer, fools easy. But also, I guess I’d like to think I’m a good friend. I have a small circle of friends, but we’ve been friends for many years, 10 plus, for all of my friends, so I keep my circle small. They’re really important to me as well, so I’d like to think they would see me, as a good friend as well, and friends, I think, are really important.  

As you get older, I think I’ve realised how important my friends and my circle are and I guess, you know, at one point, I felt like, you know, I’m gonna be more proactive in terms of your friendships. I think you take them for granted sometimes, and so I’d often do the instigating, the outreaching and the organising, but I guess life’s got quite busy now, so I’d often do the instigating, the outreaching and the organising, but I guess life’s got quite busy now, so I haven’t been doing that so much, but it’s been great that they have stepped up and they are the ones reaching out now. As I said, I mentioned with my aunt. You know they’ve been fantastic around that time as well. So I think, yeah, there’s a few things about friendship there.  

0:53:32 – Tamara Littleton 

Well, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. This has been such a wonderful conversation and before we finish, is there anything that, uh, that we haven’t asked you, that you really wanted to share, or or if you want to have any closing thoughts, the, uh, the platform is yours oh, thank you.  

0:53:49 – Atlyn Forde 

You know I love to talk, so there are a few little things I’d like to mention. And I guess a key thing for me, for anyone really as an aspiring entrepreneur or anyone who has something on their vision board they’ve been unable to achieve, is quite often we’re getting in our own way. We may think that society or something else is holding us back, but I think you know, if you really want it, you know there’s always a pathway and a way to get it. Think outside the box, speak to people about the thing you’re trying to get to and find a new way.  

I realised that quite often, I would get in my own way, put a block on something, and say I don’t know why I can’t do this. You know, it’s just so difficult. And what I realised is that it’s fear quite often. That fear puts a block in the way, and I’ll find other reasons as to why, but ultimately, once I’ve realised that it’s fear that’s holding me back, that almost clears the way, and then I can say right, you know, know, you are scared of this thing.

But quite often, when you’re scared of something, that means there’s something good on the other side. So let’s push through and, again, more self-talk, which I seem to do a lot. Let’s push through and let’s find a way to deal with this, and I think acknowledging the fact as to what the blocker is, that it’s you that’s in the way, is a’s a great thing that I’ve learned, so I would love to just share that with people and hopefully, it will help others to acknowledge any fears that they have and deal with that fear. Accept it because, quite often, it’s not as bad as you think it’s going to be, and I think my biggest fear often is around rejection. I feel like if I do this thing, the email’s not going to be received very well, the project idea’s not going to be received very well, the project idea is not going to be received very well, and ultimately, most of the time, it is received very well.  

If it’s not, I just need to tweak it a bit and then try again, and so I guess the other thing is that that has come through experience and maturity and, I think, confidence, and so I would also recommend that people have more confidence and self-belief in themselves. You know, ultimately, your own biggest champion and you know it’s great to have others, you know, supporting you and encouraging you. You know, have the self-belief because I believe if I had that self-belief earlier, I could have done so many more things earlier in my life. And I guess now I’m feeling, as I’m approaching 50, it’s like, okay, you know that the timer is on.  

You know, I really want to have a fantastic life in my older years. This is again on my vision board. You know, in retirement, I want to be able to travel around the world, but I need to make that happen. No one else can make it happen for me. So let me get out of my own way, put my foot on the accelerator, and make these things happen. And so I guess my passing shot to everyone is to be self-confident and identify your blocks, and if it’s fear, you know, overcome that and go forward because it probably won’t be as bad as you think it will be.  

0:56:54 – Wendy Christie 

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