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FEATURE22 February 2013

Know their staff

Encouraging employees to develop their passions has put Best Place to Work winner Flamingo in the top ranks of market research employers.

How Flamingo staff discussions helped Channel 4 tackle transgender topics

Flamingo’s commitment to being an industry-leading environment in which to work extends not only to how it looks after its people but in the ways it seeks to make public its values, and in the issues and agendas it is prepared to tackle. Channel 4’s commission of Flamingo to explore the issues facing transgender people in contemporary Britain exemplifies this.

The project aimed to increase Channel 4’s knowledge of this group giving the broadcaster the confidence to portray them with accuracy and sensitivity. Josephine Shaw, director at Flamingo, said: “We needed to bring some clarity and insight to the debate. Most of the rest of the media were, and still are, largely clueless on this issue and the discrimination being fostered by inaccurate portrayals on TV and in the press causes real harm.

“The project, Ten Trans Lives, was a world-first for Channel 4 in this field, and sums up many of things Flamingo cares about.”

The project involved a diverse team at the agency, and started with gaining the trust of participants from a community very wary of media interest. It involved the creation of ‘life dossiers’ on the participants after sensitive depth interviewing and having them create week-long audio diaries. The team then invited expert participation, hearing from professionals from the NHS, the world of psychology, speech therapy, support groups and even an academic from the University of Hawaii. To this was added extensive desk research.

The project culminated in a day-long encounter workshop between participants and Channel 4’s commissioning teams, a 63-page book called The Transgender Primer ( with over 500 copies now in circulation within the broadcast community and advocacy groups ), and a 30-minute narrated audio documentary, used internally within Channel 4. Many of the insights from the project have gone on to shape Channel 4’s programming ( including My Transsexual Summer ).