Storytelling in the sector

Papillon’s association with Busy Bees began in 2011, soon after Papillon itself was founded. My former career in journalism and advertising, together with my personal role as mother of three, provided good grounding for the turbulent role of PR. 

At that time, Busy Bees had more than doubled its portfolio of nurseries to 126, having acquired Just Learning. Already the largest childcare company in the UK, it had plans to double again and more. That caught my interest, but it was the sense of family, the commitment, the devotion and the absolute dedication of the founders to their initial aim to provide the best possible childcare, which emanated throughout the senior management team – that captivated me and my team.

As a communications company with a focus on care and education, we have experienced at the cutting edge the highs and lows of the childcare industry. The sector is often under the media spotlight, and not always for the right reasons.

We are privileged in our daily business to meet many incredible people who devote their working lives to bettering the outcome of children, not just in the UK but across the globe. But our frustrations of seeing these unsung heroes passed over while headlines take centre stage actually fuels our determination to counter-attack, creating instead headlines which celebrate the talent and commitment which abound in almost every nursery in the country.

My career to date has taught me to appreciate and love the fact that public relations – traditional and digital – can really have a positive impact upon, and help support, those who deserve recognition. It can challenge established pre-conceptions, arduous news headlines and political agendas. It can highlight and promote, through sharing best practice, improvements at grass roots level.

Let’s face it, in the childcare sector, we’re not selling baked beans. We’re selling a promise to every single family that if they choose to place their children, their most prized and precious possession in our care, we will provide everything you could possibly want for your child on a social, emotional and physical level. That is a monumental promise.

As the largest childcare company in the UK, it’s no surprise that Busy Bees is approached on a daily basis for comment around hot topics of concern both across the sector and in every family home with young children. Childcare is expensive, and necessarily so. Understanding the enormous costs of delivering the promise is vital when tackling issues around affordability and quality. This is a yearly debate. It seems five minutes since we were being told to brace ourselves for the new higher ratios and currently we’re consumed with headlines and plagued with calls around the debacle of the 30 hours. We don’t put pen to paper lightly.

We, and when I say we, I mean our client and our comms team, have a duty to respond and we have a duty to our peers to tell it like it is – and that’s where there needs to be integrity and trust and a willingness to put our heads above the parapet when so often there’s a hardened critic poised ready to try and knock it off. We’re fortunate indeed to have articulate and compassionate clients that know what they want to say and why they want to say it.

We also feel privileged to be able to make a contribution – however small – to raising the game, championing talent and reminding the media and masses that this is a place where expertise, care and excellence abounds.

Katie founded Papillon at her kitchen table in 2010, following 20 years’ experience as a journalist, advertising executive, copywriter and PR consultant. She’s seen and (almost!) done it all, and now divides her time between the cosmopolitan Walton-on-Trent and London (where she’s on first name terms with everyone at the restaurants in Euston Station). Clients love Katie because she’s commercial, confident and entirely entertaining. We love her because she’s always buying us lunch from The Swan.

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