Seven-figure investment as comms agency launches new division

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Strategic communications agency CDS has launched a behavioural insight division, designed to drive inclusivity and accessibility throughout the private and public sector.

It marks ongoing investment totalling £3m in Leeds-headquartered CDS’s ‘people, processes, and technology’ toolkit, which also includes the creation of 13 additional roles to help organisations improve access to services and communications – irrespective of age, literacy, digital knowledge, physical capability, or vulnerability.

The launch of the division signals further investment in – and the expansion of – SimpleUsability, which was acquired by CDS in October 2020.

Based out of a custom-built research facility in Marshall’s Mill, Leeds, the latest proposition will offer end-to-end behavioural insight services to support strategic and authentic communications.

Having earmarked £1.1m ongoing investment in growing its headcount, the expansion will include the recruitment of eight new team members, alongside five internal promotions, as well as further positions over the coming months.

CDS operations director, Clare Gledhill, will oversee the management and strategic development of the behavioural insight agency.

Lucy Beldon is the new planning and performance lead, Fiona Harwood moves into the role of head of service design, Susie Spencer will run the behavioural research team, and Martin Gittens leads on user experience design.

Clare Gledhill

Gledhill said: “ONS data shows the UK has more than 10 million disabled people – only 8% of whom require the use of a wheelchair – as well as an ageing population with a wide range of needs, and 4.2 million people aged 65 plus who have never used the internet.

“And, while the pandemic has undoubtedly highlighted the ethical needs for key services to start thinking about who and how they include everyone in communications, it also heralded a new ‘digital age’ where people rapidly embraced digital-first solutions.

“While it served a very timely function, it’s important we must remember that everyone has the right to the same experience as we start to shape our ‘new normal’.

“Our behavioural insight agency will help organisations understand the needs of their audiences so they can build and deliver experiences and communications that are truly authentic and empathic in nature.”

To further understand the needs of society, CDS has invested a six-figure sum for access to research tools and tech such as Gartner and YouGov.

This will bolster the organisation’s end-to-end service proposition, and provide quantitative data to back up its own in-house qualitive research capability delivered via its ResearchHelper arm – a market research, usability testing, participant recruitment, and sentiment mapping facility also based in Marshall’s Mill.

Further new roles include a senior user researcher, accessibility executive, accessibility consultant, acquisition strategist, planning and performance executive, user experience designer, senior user experience designer, and participant recruiter.