a blog by Asif Choudry, Resource

As we approach the fifth #CommsHero since it began a year ago, I wanted to share my reasons for starting what has become an ever growing community.

I’ve wanted to share this story for some time and now seemed a good time for reasons that will become apparent as you read on.

For many years I have attended events either as a delegate or a speaker and eventually found myself asking the question “Do events have to be like this?” The simple answer is yes, unless of course you are brave enough to do it yourself. So I did, with the support of an amazing team @ResourceHousing @ResourcePrint. Day in day out we work with Comms team across the UK who juggle diminishing time and budgets with ever increasing demands for increased ROI. Only a hero could perform in this environment. We wanted to create a community that celebrated this hero status and brought together like minded people IRL (in real life) and virtually to share ideas, best practice over a coffee and @krispykremeUK doughnuts. An event for Comms people run by Comms people and funded by Comms people. #CommsHero is a not for profit event and all the money from ticket sales pay for the event.

As with any good marketing initiative we started with customer research. A simple yet often overlooked concept. Ask your potential customers for their thoughts on the concept of an event with great speakers, an unconference element, lots of time to engage with other attendees and learning in a fun and relaxed environment. Of course it was also important to ask how much people would pay and if they would be pleased that the events were more accessible (ie not just in London).

The customer feedback was very positive and so it was decided. Let’s do it!!! The journey from here was very quick and we went from concept to hosting our first #CommsHero within eight weeks. That’s some going when you consider what was required:

Create a brand name
Register domain names and Twitter account. Much to my surprise @CommsHero and https://www.commshero.com was available.
Find speakers and ask someone from the Comms community to chair the event
Find a venue that was easy to get to and could create impact for the first ever #CommsHero
Design all the assets for a multichannel campaign to achieve a minimum of fifty people booked
And lots of other things to get us ready for 13th May 2014

Within a short space of time bookings started to come in and interest for #CommsHero grew quickly with 80 Comms people attending the first event. The support from leading Comms influencers was overwhelming and further vindicated the decision to make this concept a reality. (to name a few @JohnPopham, @HelReynolds, @GrantLeboff, @PaulBromford, @nickatkin_hht, @Caroline_Torus, , @lyha_LisaP and @nhscommsorg) We had people asking us to bring #CommsHero to their area as they want to get involved. The feedback from the first event was very positive and the second event was confirmed for June to be held in North Wales. Two more followed in October held in Bristol and London. Overall, we had 250 people attending. We even had the #HousingDay legend that is @AdeCapon asking us to bring the #CommsHero treatment to the 2014 launch of an amazing campaign.

So what did we learn from #CommsHero and what can other people take away from this?

Marketing is more than just Twitter. Multichannel is important and using the right channels for the right people is how to get your message heard. We used personalised print, handwritten letters, Twitter, LinkedIn, photos, videos, actually speaking to people IRL (it’s what we did before email and social media) to name but a few tactics.
Devoting time to engaging with your customers does matter. (Not just when you want something from them either). Those many hours put in to create and engage in conversations with people over the years pays off. They are more likely to listen and support you when it’s your time.

Dare to be different! There is lots of noise out there and being the most worthy campaign doesn’t guarantee you’ll be heard. You need to focus on crafting creative and engaging content and being different can make you stand out. Being different requires commitment. For example handwriting 250 letters (one to each and every attendee of #CommsHero). I had forgotten what it’s like to get writer’s cramp but it was worth every bit of pain as the engagement and response was amazing.

Your campaign should be considered in three phases. Before, During and After. You have to create a buzz to get people interested, deliver the buzz when people are there and continue the buzz after (unless of course you want to be a one hit wonder). I suppose that the fifth #CommsHero on 13th May in Manchester is living proof of how to keep a campaign alive.
You don’t need a huge team of heroes to do big things. # CommsHero was delivered by a team that don’t do events full time. It’s part of many other roles and responsibilities, not dissimilar to the Comms teams we wanted to celebrate. Don’t get me wrong there were a few late nights planning, creating, printing, tweeting, packing goody bags and driving across the county. However, when you love your job and it’s a passion we don’t see the hardship.
Get your customers involved. I mean really involved. We’ve given full access to @CommsHero to some Comms friends and each week people have been guest tweeting their own content.
You can’t please everyone all the time!

It’s been an epic journey and one which has challenged me but also delivered many memorable moments. The fifth #CommsHero event is on 13th May in Manchester (exactly one year after it all started). We only planned to do one event when it all started and the next one may be the last. Unless of course the Comms community demand an encore…

This is my opportunity to say a big thank you to all the amazing people who have supported #CommsHero and hope everyone gets involved on 13th May, either IRL or online.