The Do Good Better List - 5 things I've loved this week

Is it too late to say Happy New Year?

It’s been a few weeks since my last blog post; though I did treat the world to a Twitter thread on the final frantic day before Christmas.

But this week it’s been fantastic to get back into the swing of things with some really interesting and exciting discussions and projects….

1. New Year’s Resolutions

Truth be told, I’m not a big one for New Year’s Resolutions. I’m terrible at sticking to them. Last February’s glut of rotting blueberries in the Capper Household’s fridge is testament to that fact.

But this year is a bit different. As I reached 41 in November (officially “a certain age”), I became really conscious of the total lack of exercise and eating healthily I’d been putting my increasingly creaking body through.

Spending a lot of time on trains, fuelling myself with milky coffee, and burning the candle at both ends had started to lead to some lazy habits. Listening to two incredible audiobooks by Yuval Noah Harrari (Sapiens, and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century) got me feeling very guilty about the impact that meat production was having on the environment, and has made me significantly reduce the amount of meat I eat - and the amount of veggie based stuff in our family diet. And that paranoia that comes with advancing middle age really started to focus my mind on my own physical wellbeing.

So, I decided to make the decision to start running. Again.

I haven’t done any consistent running for a few years. in 2015, I ran about 1.5miles every 2 days for about 9 months. The last one of these I ran was on 20th October. My son was born on 21st. Draw your own conclusions…

I’m aiming to run a 5k in May in Liverpool. Now to some of you, this will seem like a pathetically unambitious target. But for me, starting from absolutely nowhere in November, it still feels like it would be a major achievement, so I’m going for it.

But this time, I’ve enlisted a bit of help.

So to start with, I starting looking at how I might achieve this; starting from the frankly negligible amount of exercise I was doing (a nightly dog walk aside). I read lots of blogs and looked at lots of fancy apps (mostly with oddly expensive in-app purchases involved).

But the one I found, has been a game changer. And it’s also the most simple, most rudimentary app on my iPhone. It’s the “Couch to 5K” App from Public Health England (in conjunction with the BBC and the NHS One You campaign.)

There is no map. There’s no calorie calculator. There’s no GPS. There’s no social sharing or integration with your fit-bit. You can’t take any inspiring photos of your running route. There’s no gamification with other users. There’s no money off sports gear for beating a certain target.

It’s literally a series of runs consisting of a celebrity telling you when to walk, and when to run. It saves each run and then moves on to the next one.

So, three days a week I have the pleasure of Michael Johnson telling me I’m “doing great” and that "I know you can do this” as I pound the pavements in the drizzle around South Liverpool.

I mean sure, the sound levels aren’t great. Michael’s voice is a bit distorted and it has a tendency to hurt my ears when it comes on over whatever music or podcast I’m listening to at the time. But, honestly, its somewhat low budget homespun nature is exactly what I’ve needed.

Sometimes the best products, the best comms, and the best ideas are the simplest, and most importantly just successfully meet the needs of the user.

And it really is a great piece of public sector comms! It has met my exact needs, it’s not flashy, and it just works.

And about 6 weeks in, I’m already running for 28 minutes non-stop (which I think equates to about 4.5k round here).

The lesson. Your idea doesn’t need to be “flashy”, “whizzy”, “jazzy”, or God forbid “sexy”. It just needs to do the basics well and meet the needs of your user.

2. Passing on knowledge

Maybe it’s the New Year, but I’ve spoken to a couple of people already who are contemplating the jump into the freelance comms world. No names mentioned, obvs.

It’s been six whole months for me. I can quite believe that I’ve survived this far sometimes. But survived I have, and I’m still loving it.

So I was really grateful this week to Rachel Miller for hosting me on her website, with my blog post: Six Lessons from Six Months as a Comms Freelancer

I was so grateful to those that advised me before I made the leap, and even though it feels a bit early for me to be providing others advice, in all honesty, it was really nice to reflect a bit on some of the things I’ve learned in that time.

So, thank you Rachel.

3. Loving my client work

I’ve been working with four clients this week on various things. I’ve been really excited to start work with a client based in the US this week on a new project.

And I’ve been really proud to work with and NHS organisation very close to my heart on a recruitment campaign. It’s still in progress at the moment, so I’ll share the details of it with you all very soon.

I’m looking forward to progressing a public engagement co-design project in East Cheshire in the coming weeks also

So it’s fair to say that January has started with a bang!

4. Christmas Nordic reading

I’m a big Audiobook fan.

But sometimes you cannot beat a physical book; and I’ve been loving a Christmas present from my wife this week: Truly Nordic, which is a visual a written review of “Nordic craftsmanship, branding campaigns and designs”.

Regular readers will know that we have a bit of a “thing” for Nordic design and living in our household, and that this has actually translated into inspiration for Grey Fox and my general approach.

It’s the simplicity, the user-centred design and the consistent attention to detail that I love, and the section on the branding for the Danish Rail Network was super interesting. Every train, in every station, in every part of Denmark has consistent branding, fonts, colour schemes to match their world-renowned reputation for cleanliness, punctuality and reliability. Having spent another couple of days in Copenhagen over Christmas, I can attest to the excellent experience you get travelling by train in Denmark. It’s an example of a nationalised industry that works brilliantly for the people it’s set up to serve; and this lovely book shows how this translates visually.

I’ll refer you to Nicola’s blog for a more in depth review.

5. I’m in a book!

And finally…

I was super excited to be asked to contribute some of my thoughts to a new book with 59 other comms experts.

“60 Awesome Tips and Secrets from the Comms Experts” is an amazing piece of work by the team at Be Smart Design, and it’s a great honour to be included in it.

Download your copy for a small charitable donation now. It’s required reading for everyone in the industry.