What. A. Week.
It's been another very busy and exciting seven days, including spending time in two great cities. Here's how this week has looked.
1. Making health research human
I've spent a lot of my marketing and comms career working in the NHS. I'm really passionate about making sure that everyone in society has the opportunity to live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives - so it's been a real privilege to contribute what skills I have to help the NHS to do what it does, better.
As we celebrate the NHS's 70th birthday, as well as filling us with loving nostalgia, this should inspire us to improve how it delivers services in a way that's fit for the 21st century.
The place in the UK where this is really moving forward is Manchester. This is thanks of course to the game-changing devolution deal, that gives the region more control over how it spends its budgets and delivers its services. But, as I've found this week, it's also down to the amazing passion of the people who work behind the scenes to create systems, and trial innovations.
I'm super-excited to be working with a client at the moment that does just that. Health innovation and research can feel very complex and impenetrable. But it's really heartening to see how committed the Manchester health research community is meeting the challenge of telling a human story about what it does, why it does it - and the impact it has on real people's real lives.
No matter what the specialism, the many skilled people working in this environment are all helping to safeguard the future of the NHS, and to create a healthy population in this generation and the next.
I'm delighted and privileged to be playing a small part.
2. Mentoring in Birmingham
How beautiful is Birmingham these days?
In the last few years I've visited Birmingham pretty regularly - attending events such as CommsCamp, and the Comms2.0 Unawards. But this week I spent a really inspiring day in the city centre with Darren Caveney (of the afforementioned Comms2.0) who has been providing me with some mentorship over the past few months.
First things first. The City Centre of Birmingham absolutely knocked me out. The old buildings, the new Library (seriously: wow) and the new developments are all coming together to put the city centre up there as a rival to most major European cities. If you haven't visited recently: do.
But also. I've you've ever considered having a mentor, I would highly recommend that too. It's been a vital part of my thought process in setting up Grey Fox. It's really helped me to have the confidence and to see the wood for the trees in terms of how I define my offer. Quite frankly, I don't think I'd be writing this blog post without it.
If you're a senior comms professional in need of some help, I'd highly recommend speaking to Darren. But whatever your career level, it's a fantastic way of getting an impartial perspective on your skills, and how to meet your aspirations.
3. Blog post of the week.
This week has been another blockbuster in comms-related blog posts.
But funnily enough I'm a bit late to the party on this week's post - as it's actually a couple of weeks old already.
But this one: "the 10 golden if this then thats of comms", by Louise Powney is definitely the best, most entertaining post I've read this week.
It really sums up the challenges, frustrations and face-palm moments of being an in-house comms professional. It's great - and for my money, Louise is one of the best comms writers out there.
4. Podcast of the week
Bit of a cheat this week.
I released Episode One of "How to go freelance: A guide for the terrified" on Monday and I've had some really heartening comments from both new freelancers, and those that are considering making the leap.
When I was going through the process of setting up Grey Fox, I spoke to a range of people that I know, trust, and like (crucially) to get some advice. As a podcast-addict, I searched online for some advice too. There are loads of good ones out there about "being a freelancer". There are also loads of good ones for "Setting up your own business". What I couldn't find was one about:
"Becoming a freelance comms consultant having spent the majority of your career in-house."
So I decided to do my own.
Listening back to it, there are some brilliant quotes in there.
I particularly love:
On getting over the fear. "If you don't feel some fear, then you're very stupid". Dan Slee.
On networking. "I don't like pitching for work...I like talking to people, because people are interesting." Kate Vogelsang
On making the decision. "Take the chance. Be yourself. Do it differently. Have the confidence that you can do it - because you CAN do it. But always have a plan." Dave Thackeray.
If you haven't listened, you can subscribe:
Episode 2 is in the editing suite right now. And I promise, I'll feature a "real" podcast again next week....