The challenge:

When CEO, Katharine Poulter, was appointed to spearhead Laura Ashley’s turnaround at the beginning of 2020, she faced a mountain of challenges.  With the business on the brink of collapse, there was an urgent need for communications that could win hearts and minds and inspire immediate action.

The brief:

There was, however, one major problem:  A distinct lack of inhouse communications support.

As a natural communicator, with a colleague-first approach to communicating business change, Katharine initially appointed not A Duff word to help her articulate and internally communicate her transformational vision and hugely disruptive turnaround plan.

But, with the business seeking urgent funding, being forced into administration and striving to secure a new buyer, all against the backdrop of coronavirus, that communications brief quickly morphed into supporting all CEO office communications – both internally and externally.

Deliverables included:

  • The articulation of Katharine’s vision and turnaround plan, consistently communicated in numerous formats for a plethora of different stakeholder audiences – including investors, prospective buyers, government, media, customers and colleagues.
  • Crisis communications support as the business entered administration, sought a new buyer and adapted its operations to respond to coronavirus.
  • Communication strategy and tactical materials for the organisation’s restructure, store estate realignment and disposition sale. Working across the senior leadership team and with administrators, this work ultimately impacted all colleagues, customers and communities.
  • Advice and support with national and regional media interviews and releases, as well as social media.
  • Implementing regular CEO communications – this included building a library of corporate templates and the introduction of new channels (such as the resurrection of “LA News” a monthly newsletter relaunched in a digital format following a decade long absence).

“Thank you so much for the newsletter… LOVED IT! Sheer poetry and absolutely uplifting.  A wonderful insight into ongoing proceedings.” 

Furloughed store colleague writing upon receiving the first LA News during coronavirus lockdown

The client’s verdict:

Alex is one of life’s great listeners.  She immediately sets you at ease, so you share the problem that needs solving and the outcome you are seeking.

She calmly processes a situation and asks all the right questions, ensuring the landscape’s factors are all out on the table.  Alex has an astute and well-educated business brain – no doubt finely whittled working alongside Sir Ian Cheshire and gratefully much leveraged for my support at Laura Ashley.

Alex adeptly joins the dots. She creates succinct and impactful communication.  She did that to reflect my voice and my personality, in a way that was both authentic and exceptionally effective.

Having seen firsthand that culture is the greatest driver of business performance, and that culture begins with authentic communication from the top, I could not have delivered the unprecedented results I did, in such a short time, without Alex.  She enabled me to be heard by my 2,700 strong team, as we pulled together behind our new vision.

My arrival was quite a step change for Laura Ashley’s senior team and the wider business but Alex was always one step ahead, a sounding board for me and temperature check for the team.

Blurring comms with HR – it is all about people with Alex.  Be it store sales teams, cherry pickers, city analysts, investors, or the BBC, Alex has it all on her radar.  She deftly ensures there is one message and that it lands in the right way, in the right order, at the right time.  That enabled me to take control of the narrative and lead the business through challenging times.

Alex integrates fast and fully with internal and external stakeholders. The senior leadership team were quick to see the power of comms and the cultural step change it drove, automatically reaching out to Alex for more…the snowball effect began.

Results were instant and sustained.  Following a steady year-on-year decline with sales at (-13%), that flipped to +22%.  I have no doubt that was in part due to the clear plan and rallying cry that was repeatedly communicated.

Alex has a strong work ethic and was flexible with her time to meet the demands of my busy schedule.  We often met early, but be it in person or by phone, zoom, email or WhatsApp she made herself available, not just to help but to resolve, calmly every time.  Diligently wading through my messages, which like this one are far too long, she edits, orders and punches out the crucial points!

Alex and the CFO were my go tos!  I can’t thank Alex enough for her support during my time with Laura Ashley and can highly recommend her exceptional skills and the gift she has with communication and people.”

Katharine Poulter, CEO, Laura Ashley, February-July 2020

I’d love to talk to you about how I could help you harness your communications to engage and inspire action within your organisation:

Call +44 (0) 7506 146 147 or email