Getting to know

Chris Mawson

Director, Strategy & Planning

Chris has been working with the team at Spiral since 2010. In his own words, he was “born in Dewsbury but raised in Yorkshire” and took his first job in an advertising agency as a production assistant. Since then he’s worked prolifically in and with many well-known UK-based brands. On the weekends, Chris likes to spend time with his wife, family and friends – this could be out walking, enjoying a meal together or simply chilling at home.

What does your typical working day look like?

I awake at 5.30am and ready myself for the day ahead, often doing my most productive thinking in the shower. I occasionally work from home but prefer to be in the office so I jump on a train (then a bus) and arrive to open up my laptop. Then on to lots of team time and client engagement revolving around briefs, creative ideas, proposals and seeking out new opportunities. Closing my laptop signals the end of my time in the office for that day – so it’s now back home via the bus and the train. The working day doesn’t necessarily stop the moment I return to the house as I can’t resist the temptation to monitor emails and messages via my mobile. I’m ‘always on’ I guess – but never to the detriment of my work/life balance. That’s how I roll and the way I prefer it to be.

What’s been a stand-out moment for you in your career?

I’m happy to say that there have been many but when I look back, there is one Xtra special stand-out moment. That’s the small part I played in the repositioning of the Halifax banking brand when we propelled Howard Brown from the Sheldon branch to becoming the face of Halifax. Howard sang and danced his way to TV stardom in a matter of months, including an appearance in the Office Christmas special alongside Ricky Gervais. He even had a waxwork at Tussauds in London! The use of ‘staff as stars’ was a brave creative idea that overcame many internal challenges prior to launch – but then went on to become an award winning game-changer, not only for the Halifax brand but also the sector where other banks had no option but to take notice and respond. I’m proud to have played my part in a massive team effort.
Chris visits Charging Bull near the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street.
Chris visiting Whitby on the Yorkshire coast.

Do you have any personal claims to fame?

Yes! I was once a ‘Leeds United Legend’ who played a major part in the club's history. That may be hard to believe but it's true! It's a good few years back now but I did in fact play for a Leeds United Legends team in a charity match alongside a few names you may recognise. Bremner, Hunter, Sheridan, Batty to name a few. I scored a hat-trick that day too. And then, more recently, I played my part in the club's history as a cardboard cut-out in the famous Elland Road stadium when football returned after the Covid pandemic. The first season back in the Premier League after a 16 year absence. Some would say I played like a cardboard cut-out in the Legends game, but I know differently! Available on VHS if anyone wants to see it.

How do you keep your finger on the pulse?

The very nature of what I do and who I work with is a constant learning experience. Beyond my day-to-day involvement with different organisations there are three key channels I rely on. The first is comms auditing. This is where I get to work with an organisation on content and channel effectiveness, uncovering what matters most to internal and/or external audiences. The second is a regular event we co-host, called Ignite Forum. In my role as Chair, I get to spend time with comms professionals from many different organisations. We share best practice, key learnings and emerging opportunities. And last but not least, I’m an active LinkedIn user. I find if you use this platform correctly, it not only helps build your network it can also provide an incredibly valuable source of industry updates and new experiences.

You mentioned comms audits. How do you ensure comms – and particularly internal communications – are effective and engaging?

An IC Health Check is a great way to establish how well an internal comms strategy aligns with an organisation's vision, values and aims. I’ve been involved in facilitating many of these and have seen at first hand how time invested in understanding what matters most to employees can lead to the creation of more effective and engaging IC strategies. Coupled with this, I’m a great advocate of establishing an internal comms network. A group of employees representing different business units can help you land, expand and embed key messages.

And how do you see the role of internal communications evolving in the future?

The role of IC has, without doubt, changed since the C-19 Pandemic – and this will continue as the way we work and the way we now seek to collaborate becomes more fluid. The need to pause, rethink and effectively re-invent the way an organisation engages employees is now a prime focus for many. Engaging teams around purpose, strategy and values will continue to be the number one priority – but we are also seeing the growing prominence of employee wellbeing, sustainability, and diversity, equity and inclusion. When considering key channels we will continue to see the rise in importance of People Managers. Now, more than ever, we need to invest in bespoke support for these individuals to ensure they’re well equipped to support the physical and emotional wellbeing of their teams.

Your own well-being seems intact – but is there anything that rubs you the wrong way?

Well, this is literally a ‘pet’ peeve – I really don’t get the cats and dogs thing! I understand why others might, but they’re not for me. Perhaps being attacked by an Alsation when I was 4 years old has something to do with it. Another pet peeve of mine is all of those individuals who spend time walking with their heads firmly focused in on their mobile and clearly don’t care who or what is ahead of them. That is until they hit someone or something and drop their precious device. Now their head is up looking for the nearest repair shop. Ouch!
Chris loves international travel and holidays.
Chris enjoys visiting worldwide city destinations and experiencing new cultures.

What's been your favourite place to visit?

In my early years it would have been Morecambe as most of the time my family went to Bridlington on the east coast. When we headed west, the excitement and anticipation was almost unbearable. In more recent times, I've been very fortunate to be able to visit different places with so many stand-out memories. The three that top my list are Singapore, Vancouver and New York. Interesting, fascinating and engaging in equal measure – but with each also offering something very different. From the laid-back chill of Singapore and Vancouver – to the eclectic vibe of New York. But perhaps it’s time to head back to Morecambe!

Finally, if you could have dinner with any person, living or dead, who would it be?

Billy Connolly without doubt. From a seriously tough upbringing to comedy royalty. I find him one of the funniest people on the planet and – even now – living with the challenge of Parkinsons. I find his take on life so simple yet so inspiring.