I am going to my first #CommsHero conference! As a ‘newbie’ to the field (have worked in communications before but studying with CIM so I feel more ‘official’), I am very excited to meet lots of delegates and listen to the incredible line up of speakers. The conference’s theme authenticity really caught my eye. Working as the Communication Manager at Manchester’s first waste food catering social enterprise requires authentic and creative approaches to marketing.
It is estimated that 15 million tonnes of food is wasted each year by the food industry in the UK, a large amount of which is still perfectly edible. These figures, unimaginable to many, is the staggering reality of the food production and consumption habits not only locally, but in many countries around the world. It is also estimated that over 8 million people in the UK alone are struggling in some way to afford enough food. Open Kitchen MCR (OK MCR) is a not-for-profit social enterprise that offers a solution to both these issues as the income generated goes back into the community! Literally winner winner chicken dinner!
I have the absolute privilege to go forth and promote OK MCR’s fantastic work as well as establishing new customers and retaining existing ones. I hope to be inspired by the Comms Heroes at the conference and return to my post with some fresh insights and bucket loads of inspiration! Particularly excited to learn more about innocent smoothies from Helena Langdon as I both love their ads and the drinks!
Plus, there is no way I could miss the #commshero conference when it is being held in the best city in the country……but I am biased! 😉
What links a unicorn, booking a place for a conference and a simple piece of advice? hashtag#CommsHero stuff that’s what. This was my Easter Egg – ‘Sparkles’ the chocolate unicorn. Apparently it reminded my boyfriend of me. I’ll take that. It’s broken the usual mould. My treat to myself this Easter was to book a place on the Comms Hero conference. A day dedicated to all things comms and a great chance to meet other creative people who may also indulge in a bit of writery stuff. So what’s the connection? Well, for starters I’m going to meet Asif Choudry, Head of Unicorn Breeding (and owner of best frikkin job title on LinkedIn) in person and get to hear him present on stage 👌. The conference is all about authenticity … halle-bloody-luja. We’re all originals, so don’t attempt to be a copy. My take-away advice is surround yourself with others who bring out the best in you. So, if you’re a creative chappy who wants to meet others like you then get yourself onto the Comms Hero conference in Manchester this June.
I’m Tanya Edwards, @EDWARDS_TE Communications Specialist at Jigsaw Homes Group, based in the North West.
As a marketing and communications professional, I am always on the lookout for events to attend where I can learn something new and network with other like-minded business people to help build my contacts within the industry.
The #CommsHero event hosted by the awesome team at We are Resource @WeAreResource is definitely one not to be missed if you work in marketing and communications. From start to finish, these events allow you to get your creative juices flowing. Quite literally this is what happened at the event this year in May. Social media guru at Innocent Drinks, Helena Langdon gave no end of hints and tips for pushing you out of your comfort zone, and was most definitely the most anticipated guest speaker of the event.
The guest speakers are always a deciding factor when choosing the right events and conferences, and #CommsHero always delivers on both the speakers and the content. This year was no exception. The high profile speakers from a broad range of backgrounds in marketing and communications, covered everything from engagement to leadership and digital strategy; all key areas for the attendees.
Highlights for me this year were Helen Reynolds (award-winning social media expert, who’s best known for her Comms Cartoons) who encouraged us to embrace our ‘Comms Unicorn’ and got us focused by thinking about our #CommsHero superpower through the use of sketch notes.; a great way to get the room motivated for the day ahead.
Sales and marketing strategist, Grant Leboff held the room’s attention by questioning what is meant by engagement today. In a world full of information, how do we grab our audience’s attention – by keeping them occupied, busy or engaged. And how do we do this? Through content and having bulk content ready to push out when needed.
Rachel Royall and Eva Lake shared their expertise into digital engagement across the NHS, advocating the power of internal communications with a staff-first approach, while Rob Jefferson and Liam Smith shared their insight from Doncaster Council and pushing the boundaries to get results.
The atmosphere at every #CommsHero event is electric and this is harnessed and pushed by the man behind the event, Asif Choudry who has brought this event to life, creating a unique community across social media, with the help of his We are Resource team. At every event you not only pick up key learnings from the highest calibre of speakers, but the personalised swag is the envy of teams across the land, and no #CommsHero event is complete without Krispy Kreme doughnuts. After every event there is also the opportunity for attendees to get their hands on a #CommsHero t-shirt, specially designed by themselves through the lead of Caroline King, Head of Brand and Communications at Torus , who facilitated the design stage at the event. The tees are emblazoned with slogans that represent what marketing and communications professionals face on a daily basis; a nod to the true heroics they perform.
Too often, employee culture is driven from above. Rigid protocol is commonplace, leaving no room for innovation; not initially succeeding at a new venture can feel like the end of the road. Yet, says opening speaker Chloe Marsh, head of engagement at social housing firm, RHP, “Nothing was ever achieved by staying in your comfort zone and playing it safe.” With this firmly in mind, CommsHero London got underway with a plethora of communications experts, its range of enterprising speakers – as well as several plates of doughnuts.
The second of three conferences, after Cardiff on 8 November and with the last taking place on 29 November, London’s #CommsHero began with a pep talk from image-led communications specialist, Fran O’Hara, who also documented the day through visual minutes. Sharing her experiences of working at Disney, dressed as a giant Tigger, O’Hara explained that to master a task in front of you, “Start where you’re going to end up.” That would have prevented her, O’Hara explains, from floundering in a fit of confusion when faced with entertaining hordes of small children in a heavy, hot costume during the summer tourist season.
And while Disneyland is oceans away from the roomful of communications professionals gathered in the centre of Camden, the message resonates: think about the task ahead, then plan for it.
Developing a ‘Dare to fail’ employee culture thus requires a solid base from which to launch your innovations. This is what Grant LeBoff, sales and marketing strategist for Sticky Marketing, says – in his role, digital and web-based marketing, evidence is crucial. LeBoff describes how communications and marketing, as a department, requires more time and investment than ever.
Rather than being, as it is so often described, an ‘adjunct’, marcoms should be integrated into business strategy and provide support for employees willing to take risks to get results. Perhaps what resonates most, however, was LeBoff’s assertion that in communications today, “You have to stand for something.” If global brand Coca-Cola can’t ‘cut through the noise’, as highlighted through its simplification of flavour and packaging design, then other organisations have no chance. “Keep it elegant and simple,” LeBoff says. Find your message, and run with it.
Thus commitment to delivering that unique or individual approach became the #CommsHero message.
For Helen Reynolds, digital communications strategist at social media training consultancy, Social for the People, this is on what effective communication is built. How can we be happier and learn through failures?, Reynolds asks. Most importantly, don’t take criticism personally. Your own happiness is vital to being effective and is part of what ‘Dare to Fail’ is about. Taking control of your own happiness and limiting your exposure to the negative side of failure has surprising results.
And, says Reynolds, if the worst does happen, make it into a story from which you and others can learn. “Don’t panic, deal with it and find a way for it not to happen again,” she says – but not before overseeing a communication challenged based on which #CommsHero team could build the highest structure from marshmallow and linguine (“Sainsbury’s had run out of spaghetti.”)
Social media and innovation in digital is another avenue down which communicators can get lost. Differentiating content between personal and corporate accounts can be difficult; pitching the right tone of voice problematic. But there are means of overcoming these obstacles. As Paul Taylor, innovation coach at Bromford Lab, says, “Would you follow your own corporate social media account?”
With this in mind, Taylor says, thinking big leads to the best results. He says, “When you think 10x bigger it forces you to do something fundamentally different,” and while this may seem daunting, “The best ideas come from groups of people, networks and people exchanging ideas.”
Tim Scott, HR and social media consultant, agrees. For HR professionals, Scott says, it can be difficult to overcome the idea that ‘Daring to fail’ is sometimes what’s needed to keep an organisation fresh. Changing the perception of outlets such as social media is perhaps what’s needed to ensure all employees taken on board the ‘Dare to fail’ mentality. As Scott says, employee advocacy, personal learning and development, increased brand engagement are just some of the advantages the less cautious, more integrated approach can deliver.
Asif Choudry, sales and marketing director of Resource, creator of #CommsHero, says, “The dare to fail concept is a celebration of the attitude of people and organisations who dare to be different and try out new ways of working. Most other events have speakers showcasing their finest work. However, as #CommsHero has always been about being different, I wanted to have a speaker line up of people who are brave enough to show off those moments where things went wrong on their path to a successful outcome.”
Choudry ends, “Delivering three events in one month was my way of showcasing the dare to fail attitude.”
Daring to take a risk and perceiving failures as prototypes for future innovation rather than the end of a chapter became the mantras underpinning the day at #CommsHero London. “Be yourself and accept that some people might not like it,” says Marsh during her round-up of the day. Only then will the confidence and resilience to ‘Dare to Fail’ begin to push the boundaries of average to show what employees really can achieve.
AMY SANDYS – @_amyms
Comms Chat – @CommsChat