Celebrating acne is a confusing prospect

The #acnepositivity and #skinpositivity movements have made it possible for those living with the condition to feel more confident in their own skin. But even after following these influencers for some time, Jack Wynn still finds the concept difficult to take on board

It was during the transition from primary to secondary school when acne first entered my life. The small, unsightly whiteheads around my t-zone area fairly quickly turned into angry looking pustules, and with the majority of my classmates excitedly eager to move on with the next chapters of their social lives, I was left facing an uncertain future about whether I would fit into a scary new environment.

But unlike a recent study of 25,000 adults published in JAMA Dermatology claiming fatty foods and sugary drinks are indeed contributory factors to developing acne, my upbringing of eating a balanced diet was a contrast to some others who survived on crisps and chocolate bars, yet had clear, almost perfect complexions.   

The concept of acne and skin positivity would have been laughed at immediately when I was at school in the early 2000s and, inevitably, I became a visible target for bullies. It was certainly expected; my sister started the same secondary school two years before and encountered some similar experiences. Although the soul destroying taunts of ‘ugly’ and ‘go wash your face’ that bellowed down the halls left my confidence at an all time low, I was hopeful that my mother’s words of “it will all disappear in no time” would one day come true.

Zoe Vi, 31 from Dartford, had a similar experience when acne first entered her life at a very young age. “I remember it first starting for me when I was nine”, says Zoe. “When I was at school, my friend bought me an acne cream for my birthday, so that was when it first felt like it was a big issue.” The move to secondary school was when the condition got progressively worse for Zoe, and comments from family members didn’t help her situation, “I was getting a lot of criticism for my skin and my parents kept on telling me that it was best for me to cover it up. It then became a necessary thing for me to do before I left the house.”  

She agrees that the social media movements to normalise and embrace acne are a good thing for boosting confidence, even for those that don’t suffer with the condition themselves. “Even the people that don’t necessarily have acne, they’ll look at it and think, ‘well, if they have acne, then it’s a normal thing’. People that don’t have it [acne] can say some horrible things”, says Zoe. 

But as the increasing number of social media influencers from all over the world dedicated to skin or acne positivity are posting empowering messages of hope, showcasing acne’s visibility so publicly and proudly is difficult for me to process. I’ve always felt ashamed of the condition and, despite now only suffering with mild acne on my face and the tops of my legs, the horror and embarrassment has lived with me all of these years later. 

It was only a few years ago I would watch YouTube tutorials of people making their own DIY face masks out of lemon juice and crushed paracetamol, desperately attempting to combat the condition. But now, a dramatic shift in social attitudes is attempting to change how acne is perceived. 

Kate Kerr, an experienced clinical facialist based in London, agrees that being positive about acne is confusing and regularly meets with clients desperately wanting to get rid of the condition. “Acne is a medical condition, I don’t think anyone could be happy to accept a medical condition and be positive about it when there is treatment available,” says Kate. “The thing is, with acne, it can easily cause scarring and the scarring effects can be with you for life. The psychological effects of acne are very far-reaching and I find people actually have more of an unrealistic expectation of skin health and clarity nowadays because of social media.” 

Kate also recognises the potential physical scarring effects of acne and how this could impact an individual’s self-esteem. “The scarring is something to take into account. So the acne may not bother you now, but the scarring that’s left over may bother you. Even if not now, but in years to come. I think it’s something that shouldn’t be left.”

Eve Langhorn, 25, works as a marketing and PR manager in London and first developed acne shortly after her teenage years at the age of 20. After using topical treatments such as benzoyl peroxide and undergoing an eight-month course of Roaccutane, Eve’s skin doesn’t breakout as much as it did in the beginning, but flare ups sometimes occur. “I don’t have perfect skin by any means and acne comes back in waves”, says Eve, who praises the skin positivity movement as a way of promoting acceptance.

In her group of girlfriends, she considers herself to be the ‘token friend’ with bad skin, “Unfortunately, I’m in a friend group of eight girls and I’m the token friend who has bad skin. You know, if there had been more of a push for skin positivity a few years ago, it would have maybe helped me out.” 

As it’s expected that influencer marketing will grow to an estimated $9.7 billion in 2020, the positivity movement also means big business and a profitable avenue for skincare brands to advertise. Dixie D’Amelio, a US TikTok social media influencer with more than 26 million followers, was recently awarded an ambassador role for Dermalogica’s Clear Start brand. Part of the campaign is for Dixie to discuss her personal experience with acne and it coincided with the release of their new Clear Start FlashFoliant exfoliator. Moving into the social media influencer marketing space was described by Carly Rogers, business leader at Clear Start, Dermalogica as “the most successful way to build our community brand awareness.” 

The problem I see here is building reliability; the products being promoted could well be a viable option for some to help manage their acne, but there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to the condition. For me, and others I’ve spoken with via Facebook forums such as Acne Support Group UK over the years, a combination of a good skincare regime and lifestyle factors such as minimising the amount of sugar in your diet, limiting alcohol consumption and avoiding direct exposure to harsh sunlight are also contributory factors to calming the condition. 

But not all influencers are in the game of pushing products to their followers. Lou Northcote, a former contestant on Britain’s Next Top Model and creator of the #FreeThePimple Instagram movement, is an example of a growing influencer making an impact. Not only is her mission to normalise acne, she also gives useful tips and advice she has learnt from dermatologists and other skincare professionals on the active ingredients brands use and how these can be really beneficial for the skin, telling Women’s Health UK in May this year, “I really try to use my platform to educate people. I’m lucky to have had access to all these dermatologists and all this different skincare, so I try to share that.”     

From what I’ve encountered, I initially thought the acne positivity influencer market was oversaturated. As someone that follows the movement and works with social media on a daily basis, I was curious to find out Eve’s thoughts on whether this was the case. “I think, from my perspective, there’s not enough of them to promote it”, says Eve Langhorn, marketing and PR manager. “I don’t think enough is being done. There will always be a strive to achieve perfection, though. I think it can be more normalised but I don’t think it can ever be fully accepted.” 

Positivity influencers could also be instrumental in the campaign to introduce more psychological help for those with skin conditions including acne, such as managing stress and body dysmorphia. The British Skin Foundation found as a result of a 2019 study that 87% of dermatologists agree more psychological treatments are needed for both children and adults. Dr Maria Gonzalez, medical director at the Specialist Skin Clinic in Cardiff and a dermatologist with more than 25 years’ experience, says this has been an issue for quite some time and may be even harder to action during the current pandemic. “The main problem with this is funding, especially on the NHS,” says Dr Gonzalez. “With private practice, they can do this [refer to counselling services]. But with the NHS, this will not happen anytime soon, particularly during the current climate.” 

However, there are some support initiatives available on the NHS. The Psychology in Dermatology Service at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London, for example, provides emotional support to those experiencing difficulties with day-to-day activities as a result of having a skin condition. The service, which schedules one-hour appointments either in-person, over the phone or Skype, helps to deal with issues such as anxiety, coping with different treatments, long-term management techniques, and the effect the skin condition may have on self-esteem. The Skin Support website, created by the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD), also provides useful tools recommended by professionals.  

To this day, it’s still daunting for me to have a picture taken at a certain closeness in case it magnifies some of the leftover scarring, and sometimes the thought of a video call during one of my rare but problematic flare ups makes my heart race. I especially could never imagine during the times where I was battling severe cystic acne I would choose to post pictures so exposed and in a vulnerable position. I still struggle with the idea of embracing the condition, and I can’t help but sometimes wonder about how happy social media influencers truly are that they feel the need to expose a deeply vulnerable part of their lives. But I must try to remember the change in social acceptance of acne and how the positivity movement is making a significant impact for many sufferers.

8 Key Characteristics To Look For In Graduate Recruiters

It’s that time of year where a new class of graduates will be hitting the job boards in search of their first stepping stone into the world of work. But, in this day and age, it isn’t easy for a graduate to land a job straight after graduation.

The job market is fierce with tough competition and hundreds of candidates all going for the same position (not to mention it’s virtually impossible to secure a career in a chosen field of study).

That’s why many become attracted to the abundance of graduate recruitment consultant roles filling up the job boards; a majority promising in excess of up to £30-35K in the first year with all-expenses-paid trips to Ibiza or Las Vegas, lunch clubs to Michelin star London restaurants, and incentive prizes such as iPads and Rolex watches.

You’re inundated with new CVs everyday: some holding a glimmer of hope, others failing to hit the mark. You have consultant roles to fill and a tight deadline to fill them by, but don’t forget about the personality traits in what makes a great recruitment consultant. We’ve come up with eight key characteristics below to help you through the interview process…..

  1. Money-motivated with financial goals?

    It’s good to ask candidates about any short and long-term financial goals they may have—a deposit on a flat, a family trip of a lifetime to Florida, a dream wedding in the Surrey countryside: it’s a crucial part of the interview process as this will determine their level of self-motivation and aspirations to succeed.
  2. Able to communicate over the phone?

    Granted, it’s difficult to determine what candidates are like selling over the phone, don’t be afraid to incorporate some practical tasks in the interview process. Admittedly, it takes time out of your day, but you’ll be thankful later on—you don’t want to babysit someone who doesn’t know how to hold a conversation with key stakeholders.
  3. Have what it takes to be a top sales leader?

    You want a recruiter that’s a natural born leader; someone who strives to win, takes risks, promises results and isn’t afraid to show others how it’s done. Think of some scenarios you can incorporate into the interviews and get their responses. Furthermore, why not ask for examples on how they’ve exceeded expectations, and how they went about doing it?
  4. Resilient with a thick-skinned mentality?

    Recruitment isn’t all incentive prizes and trips abroad; it’s a tough industry with plenty of rejection to go with it, and candidates need to know this from the get go. Don’t shy away from saying exactly how it’s going to be day-to-day—it saves them (and you, too) from having to deal with a culture shock on their first day. Place much emphasis on the long hours, tough targets, next to no lunch breaks and having to wait around after 5pm to call candidates after the working day.
  5. Thinks outside the box?

    Conventional ways of doing things can certainly bring the results you need, but stepping outside the general comfort zone of searching through LinkedIn profiles shows a candidate is forward-thinking and can take ownership. Ask for some examples on how they managed to think outside the box and the results they achieved by doing this.
  6. Determined and ferocious?

    What makes them self-motivated enough to jump straight on the phones in the morning? An excellent recruitment consultant needs a determined work ethic to get anywhere in the industry. Sometimes it’s just not enough to hit the targets; you need to go above and beyond to really reap the benefits.
  7. Happy to research their sector?

    There’s nothing worse than a recruitment consultant that doesn’t know anything about the sector they’re working in. Knowledge gets you a long way, and you want new recruiters to carve out the time in researching the top influential companies and their managing directors. Maybe discuss their dissertations, the research methods they adopted, and how they could incorporate this into sales leads.
  8. Organised and able to multi-task?

    Finally, a consultant manages a number of accounts as part of the day-to-day tasks. Organisation and carving out enough time for each one is paramount. Candidates that can keep on top of daily to do lists and are able to work well under pressure will get a good head start. Think of some scenarios to mention in the interviews, and get their responses in how they would cope with managing multiple projects at one time.

The QPS Case — A Lesson In Why Recruiters Need To Cautiously Choose Suppliers

An elaborate VAT scam constructed by three members of the Copp family (Geoffrey, 55, his brother Andrew, 51, and son Joshua, 24) allowed them to live a life of pure excess, opulence and greed.

Whilst enjoying the many gambling trips to Vegas casinos and posing on private jets with cash-loaded briefcases, foreign manual workers were employed by the trio under the umbrella company Central Payroll Specialists (CPS)—later rebranded as Quality Premier Services (QPS)—to survive on minimum wage.

It was used by a number of recruitment agencies to oversee the salaries of thousands of temporary workers across industries such as construction, and, after information was passed on to Essex Police, it was found to have not passed VAT obtained from the recruitment agencies to HM Revenue & Customs; leading to a full-on joint investigation by the HMRC Criminal Taxes Unit and the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate.

A picture of a notepad found on Joshua’s phone detailing the VAT breakdown and how it was shared between the three parties was a considerable help to the detectives, and the notepad itself was later found at the QPS office near Rickmansworth.

In the aftermath of the case—which found up to £46 million in unpaid VAT and the scammers sentenced to a total of 27 and-a-half years—the global contractor compliance consultancy, 6CATS International, is urging recruitment agencies to make sure the suppliers they work with are fully compliant before building relationships. “This is an extreme case, yes, but it’s far from being an unusual one and over the past few years we’ve seen an increasing crackdown on firms that operate outside of the law and put the recruitment agencies they work for, and the contractors those agencies place, at serious risk”, says Michelle Reilly, 6CATS’ CEO.

“However, there are still many organisations out there under the misguided belief that they can somehow slip under the radar and, while few will be quite as extravagant as this one has been, it’s highly likely that they will be caught out. This will not only leave your firm scrabbling around to find a new supplier, but can also leave your contractors and even your agency at risk of a major punishment such as an unlimited fine or potentially a prison sentence.”

Reilly continues to suggest it will be even harder for those suppliers operating unethically in the wake of this case; considered to be the largest UK payroll fraud of its kind. “The potential gains for breaking the law are clearly high, but the risks are so much greater and with HMRC becoming ever more effective at tracking down tax evaders, those suppliers that are still operating non-compliantly will eventually be caught.”

“The government knows it can bring in revenue from chasing down those committing evasion and with the introduction of legislation like the Common Reporting Standard and the Criminal Finance Bill, it’s only going to become harder to get away with operating outside of the law. It’s now time for recruitment agencies to take the bull by the horns and take responsibility for ensuring their suppliers are operating compliantly before it’s too late.”

Writing this post has brought back memories of similar past incidences: the senior NHS agency manager jailed for two-and-a-half-years for defrauding the system out of £130,000, and both directors of One Stop Recruitment who failed to pay more than £245,000 of employees’ tax and NICs, to be exact. And, unfortunately, fraud and fraud risks associated with recruitment are commonplace and often overlooked by businesses.

There’s a need to recognise fraud-related risks to prevent both a damaged reputation and financial losses. Although the actions covered in this piece were carried out for personal financial gain, a failure to comply with the prevention, identification and detection of fraudulent activities will ultimately lead to criminal prosecution.

5 Reasons To Make The Most Out Of Business Networking

Here at Forum Events, our vast experience of synchronising business has taught us that networking is a highly beneficial method for expanding your  knowledge, to become inspired by the success of your peers and to discuss innovative product offerings to potential new clients.

That’s why we’ve decided to detail the 5 key assets of business networking to advance your chances of increasing business, as well as raising your industry profile and building valuable connections.

  1. Endless opportunities

At networking and other business-related events, there is always an abundance of opportunities available for you to get involved with, such as becoming a seminar speaker and building partnerships with like-minded brands waiting to be fulfilled. However, it’s crucial to not forget the reasoning of why you are moving forward with a particular opportunity. Put your business needs first and examine whether the other party will hold their end of the bargain.

  1. Sharing tips

Absorb as much advice from similar-thinking businesses. That way, you’ll easily be able to obtain tips on a number of topics related to your business; maybe even the constant struggle of maintaining a work-life balance.

  1. Raising your profile

Throwing yourself, as well as your business, into the spotlight is pivotal to raising your profile. Make a special effort to regularly attend business and social events that will help you to meet key industry leaders; you will then be able to build your reputation as a supportive and knowledgeable professional with the right tools to optimising business. Furthermore, this will likely generate a substantial number of leads and referrals.

  1. Boosting self-confidence

For some, the thought of approaching a complete stranger at a business networking event can seem somewhat petrifying. However, as a business owner or managing director, it’s really important to have the ability to become a regular industry networker and uphold the self-confidence to strike-up a conversation with anyone. The more you make yourself do this, the more self-confidence you will garner and the more your business connections database will grow.

  1. Positive energy

The people you network with at industry events can remarkably influence who you are and how you handle business deals as a result. Therefore, it’s key to immerse yourself with uplifting and positive individuals that help you to grow and thrive as a business owner.

Originally published here

Forum Insight: Customer Engagement Methods To Maintain Strong Relationships

Now more than ever, customer communication methods are becoming varied and diverse. Trade exhibitions, social media platforms, focus groups and surveys, personalised email campaigns – the list is endless. But which methods will prove to be the most effective for your business?

Before investing too much time and effort into just one, think carefully about all available options, and ask your customers how they prefer to be contacted…

Keep track of emails: Make it your personal – and even company – goal to respond to all customer emails within a five minute time frame. Not only will it generate appreciative responses, people love fast and efficient customer service, and this level of service will lead to an abundance of recommendations and increased trade. Need more convincing? View Eptica’s ‘Email Management’ article here.

Be active on social media: By now you’re probably tired of the constant emphasis on regular social media use, but inevitably, one of the best ways to connect with customers is through social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. The good thing about social media is there is no time schedule to follow – you can reach customers at any time of the day. Use your company’s Facebook fan page or Twitter account to engage your followers and keep conversations flowing. Nowadays, social media has been incorporated as a form of customer service, so make your platforms adaptable for staff members to handle customer questions and complaints. Read through Conversocial’s case studies for influential insight.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! No matter what industry, a significant focus seems to be on new customer channel developments. But whatever happened to the traditional phone conversation? Whether you’re following up, apologising for something that went amiss, or wondering why you haven’t received an order in a while, there’s no better way to strengthen a customer relationship. According to eConsultancy, customers prefer assistance over the phone (61 per cent), followed by email (60 per cent); Live Chat (57 per cent); online knowledge base (51 per cent) and “click-to-call” support automation, (34 per cent).

Start a weekly blog: Why not create a weekly blog to keep your customers up-to-date? If you actively keep up a quality blog, not only will your customers read your blog, but they will respond to your blog. This creates a positive flow of communication and helps build customer loyalty. Find inspiration from these companies that have made blogging a ‘top priority’.

Conduct market research: Surveys allow businesses to identify customer needs. Once acknowledged, companies can steer their offerings towards filling these needs. Surveys are also a good tool to bring in prospective customers who are on the fence about a product/service, i.e. surveys can be used as a platform for prospective customers to voice their needs. Confused about whether to conduct quantitative or qualitative research? Learn more about the differences here.

The Nightmare Before Christmas: Why Marketers And Retailers Need To Plan Ahead

Selfridges launching its winter wonderland on the first day of August was a shock to the system. Down came the swimming costumes and suntan lotion, and up went 50,000 Christmas decorations and fluttering faux snow.

From a customer perspective, it’s likely that Selfridges fired too soon. The campaign was instantly met with criticism. While some lamented the robbing of their final summer weeks, others decried the rise of rampant consumerism. Christmas is ruined.

Selfridges might be cleverly launching Christmas so early to scoop up trade from tourists, but many shopper marketers would agree with the outcry. Timing is everything in retail. By focusing on Christmas now, Selfridges is missing out on making the most of the summer season, and potentially even Halloween. Time and money could be better spent optimising these events and related purchase opportunities. Christmas could then be rolled out when the summer fun has cooled down and customers are in a wintrier mood.

That said, Selfridges has shone a twinkling light on the fact that, as Christmas seems to arrive earlier and earlier commercially, retail marketers really need to plan ahead.

Christmas has always been a competitive affair. Products and brands like sherry and Quality Street that are organically associated with the holiday become high-demand, while non-Christmas brands shake up their strategies to try to directly associate with it. Suddenly brands can find themselves competing against others not normally within their category for the most part of the year.

The latter has become much more sophisticated than just decorating packaging with Christmas trees. Innocent Smoothies’ Big Knit for instance, backed by Age UK, leverages people’s more charitable nature in the run-up to Christmas, raising money to keep older people warm.

In fact, Christmas in retail is becoming more sophisticated across the board as new technologies provide exciting and disruptive ways to engage consumers. There was a time when all brands needed was a well thought out TV advert to bring the nation to its knees. Coca-Cola’s ‘Holidays are coming’, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, is a great example of a timeless campaign that will never fail to get the family around the television set.

Brilliant Christmas TV adverts still have their place – who can forget Sainsbury’s ‘Christmas is for sharing’ 2014 epic to mark the centenary of World War One? – but businesses are increasingly embracing omnichannel activation to inspire their customers at every touchpoint.

John Lewis is really leading the way here. Both the Bear and the Hare (2013) and Monty the Penguin (2014) were launched via beautifully directed and emotionally charged TV ads, but were a central part of the brand’s entire Christmas activation, from online to in-store to the products people bought.

We’re told that Christmas is a time for giving and sharing – something that directly impacts the mindsets of shoppers at this time of year. Marketing agency, smp’s report, Beyond Demographics, identified seven mindsets that influence shopper decisions today much more than traditional demographics. These range from ‘secure’ and ‘conscious’ to ‘social’ and ‘creative’. At Christmas, people are much more open and looking for purchases that build connections and generate sociability. Brands need to follow the likes of John Lewis and offer solutions to suit these mindsets.

This is why planning ahead is vitally important in today’s retail landscape. Businesses need to assess the tools available to them and take a holistic view of how to engage with consumers. While Selfridges might have transformed itself into a summer Scrooge for some, stealing precious summertime from shoppers, the retailer has also taught the industry an interesting lesson in how to shake up its approach to the festive season.