The Do Good Better list - 6 things I've loved this month

It’s been another busy month for Grey Fox Comms and Marketing; and once again, what’s been really inspiring is seeing the power of people taking ownership and leading creativity and change:

Here are some of the best bits of the last month.

1. #UnAwards Masterclass

I think I might’ve mentioned how much I love the UnAwards, and generally anything connected with comms2.0, and CommsCamp and the like.

Well I was really pleased to meet up with old friends, and meet new at the UnAwards Masterclass in Birmingham last week.

As always I was knocked out by the incredible skill and dedication on show from fellow professionals working to keep people informed and involved, in ever more creative ways.

But just as important for me is the strong sense of camaraderie and genuine friendship that exists.

It’s fair to say, this community is amazing.

No one is here because they’ve been told to be. No one is involved because it’s an agreed objective. No one is here to schmooze. People do this because they value each other’s insight and contribution, because they want to learn off each other, and because of the total lack of hierarchy.

OK, so I do tend to give a couple of business cards out at these things. (I do, after all, need to make a living off working with communicators, predominantly, in the public sector.)

But that is a long way down my list of things I get out of being involved in this community. First and foremost, it makes me a better communicator.

I was having this exact conversation to someone over coffee. Was it a good business move for me to be at the event? Probably. But really, I’m no different to anyone there. I’m a communicator working in public service like anyone. I just get paid differently!

I don’t know everything, and I believe you should never stop learning. And the encouragement I get from fellow communicators is just wonderful.

It’s a grassroots, supportive learning community for communicators. I’m proud to contribute in my occasional small way.

2. (More) thoughts on internal comms

A lot of my client work focus has been on internal comms this last month.

I ran a fascinating day of workshops with a public travel organisation, where I heard directly about the experiences of front-line operatives, and senior leadership.

I’ve also started a long term project with a local authority this month, which, predominantly is focused on engaging and supporting multi-disciplinary staff across a wide geographical area.

As an in-house communicator, I never really saw myself as an Internal Comms Specialist. But, especially when I worked in an NHS organisation with about 5000 staff, it became an inevitable part of the job.

I’ve made the point before that, if you can do good external comms, you’ll do good internal comms; and I definitely believe this. All communication starts with understanding your audience, their pressures and motivators, and their preferred channels. So in one sense, just applying this theory internally, as well as externally, is the way to success.

But I’ve come to realise recently that there can be a bit more to it than that, when looking internally.

And in a couple of recent workshops I’ve led, I’ve focused a lot on some key enablers and barriers to effective internal engagement in the form of:

Structure - the practical stuff like staffing levels, technology, management structures, organisational policy. Basically, the stuff that someone could make the decision to change if they so chose to.

Culture - the more human factors like ego, the prevailing mood in the organisation, and how people feel.

I’ve come to realise that, just as importantly as having strong, inspiring messaging; that these need really careful consideration before ploughing ahead with new initiatives.

And, yes, again you could apply this to communicating in any situation; it’s just that within organisational boundaries it feels more acute and urgent.

So, without really planning it, I’m doing an awful lot of internal comms stuff. I’ll keep you posted on how it works out.

And as for some other project highlights from the last month…

3. NHS Recruitment

I’ve been working on a couple of different projects focused around recruiting professionals to work in the NHS recently.

From delivering a short term social media campaign, to working with professionals across the North West to help design a more sustainable approach to NHS recruitment as a whole, I’ve really enjoyed getting under the surface of the challenge and seeing the genuine passion and motivation that people do seem to have for working for NHS organisations. The challenge is to make sure the NHS can capitalise on it. I’m proud and happy to be playing a small part in bringing it about.

4. Patient involvement - CLAHRC podcast

One of my most valued and longest term clients is CLAHRC Greater Manchester, and I absolutely love producing and hosting their new podcast. The latest episode is all about patient and public involvement, and how important it is to work in close partnership with those who use services are designed for.

It was a real privilege to talk to Dr Sarah Darley and the two carers, Kelly and Ben, to hear about their experiences.

You can listen on Soundcloud now.

Or subscribe on Apple Podcasts.

5. The DigCit Institute blog

One of my favourite things to do every month is work with the US-based Digital Citizenship Institute.

This last month I had the great pleasure of chatting to Ben Cogswell (or Coach Ben as he’s known online) in California (via Skype - I didn’t fly out unfortunately) about his approach to digital citizenship and why he believes it’s important to break down the boundaries between our online and offline lives, and to remember to just be kind to each other.

It’s a great read of a really enjoyable chat with an inspiring person. I hope you enjoy reading all about Ben’s work on the DigCit Institute blog.

6. What I’ve been listening to

One of the best audiobooks I’ve heard all year is “Heroic Failure” by Fintan O’Toole.

OK, it’s about Brexit. But don’t let that put you off.

Really it’s about the British (well, mostly the "English”) national psyche, it’s myths and cultural influences, and how this contradictory riddle led us inevitably that fateful day in June 2016, and the *ahem* “events” of the subsequent 3 years.

I’m always interested in questions around national identity, and how they manifest themselves - and I think there are important lessons in here for comms people around how the media portrays a sense of nationhood back to its readers, and how history, culture, hopes and fears all need factoring in when we consider how to best engage with people.

It’s been a really exciting and enriching month. Next month will be my final month of Year One of Grey Fox. And in that blog post I may provide some reflections on what has been an incredible year.