Author: Comms Hero

Pushing the boundaries – #CommsHero style

A blog from Faye Saville, Account Manager, Frontier PR

A daily challenge will not ruffle the feathers of a Comms professional – in fact, it comes with the territory.
Comms folk thrive under pressure, we get excited about creating change and we enjoy nothing more than exploring the unknown, producing the unexpected and of course getting results.
But all that said, there are times when we need to take stock of what we’re doing, how we are doing it and most importantly the reasons why. We need to embrace those unchartered Comms waters, rip down barriers to success and push our own boundaries.

This is the reason why I went to last month’s CommsHero in Manchester. It was the fifth event produced by @ResourceHousing for Comms people across the UK, and I finished the day feeling motivated and inspired, whilst pledging to live outside of my comfort zone whenever possible.
Having attended the very first CommsHero event in 2014, I had no hesitations about re-fastening my superhero cape, donning a mask and joining more than 70 Comms people for a day to remember.
After all, it’s important for us superheroes to touch base from time to time. We need to pool together our creative ideas, learn from each other, see where we are going wrong – and most importantly find solutions to the issues we are facing.

It’s true that we don’t have all of the answers, but as specialists in our field we are empowered and trained to provide the best advice we can to our colleagues, customers and organisations on a daily basis. We shouldn’t be afraid to be bold in our communications, or to try something different. Instead we should “seek forgiveness, not ask permission” – great advice shared by speaker Amanda Coleman, Head of Corporate Communications at Greater Manchester Police (@amandacomms).

CommsHero spoiled us with an action-packed day. Aside from the singing, creative breakout sessions and delicious food, we heard engaging presentations from talented Comms professionals: Grant Leboff, Sales and Marketing strategist (@grantleboff); Bridget Aherne, Head of Corporate Communciations at Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service (@BridgetAherne); Caroline King, Group Head of Brand and Communications at Torus (@Caroline_Torus); Asif Choudry, Chartered Marketer & Marketing Director at Resource (@AsifChoudry); and Heather Wagoner, Head of Internal Communications & Engagement (@Heather_Wagoner) and Paul Facer, Senior Internal Communications Business Partner (@paulwfacer) – both from London Underground.
As an audience we heard about how Greater Manchester Police uses multi-channel campaigns to engage with a broad audience (including a 227K strong twitter following), how Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue is focusing on the mind shift to more proactive communications, and Caroline King inspired us to be brave when building up our own personal profiles and networks, as after all, we are all ambassadors of our own brands.

The power of face to face and personalised communication was shared by Asif, whilst Grant focused on the customer experience and the importance of aligning our messages to what matters to our audiences.

Lastly, we heard about the communications challenges London Underground has faced and overcome as it gears up to launch Night Tube – a new weekend 24-hour service from September. The team shared the benefits of storytelling to engage their audiences, and on behalf of
@CommsNerds (ran by Heather and Paul) we explored the significance of the art and science of communication – and realised this is something we should all explore further.
So there you have it, CommsHero has opened the doors to a wider professional network and also bought people together from a variety of sectors.
A huge thanks to all of the keynotes and Resource Housing. You’ve left me with a hunger to push the boundaries, think more, learn more, and be the best Comms person that I can be.

Connect with me on Twitter: @FayeSaville

#CommsHero – why it had to become a reality

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 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.

Finding my inner hero…possibly

May 7, 2015 by Lee Grasby in BlogCommsComms HeroComms Hero Manchester | Comments Offon Finding my inner hero…possibly

a blog by Amanda Coleman, Speaker at CommsHero, Manchester

It is just a week until the Commshero event takes place in Manchester and I am honoured to have been asked to take part. I must admit to being a bit concerned about the format as it seems far from your run of the mill communication conference, and as I haven’t been to one before I am not sure what to expect. There are some big names in communication who are involved in the event and I am probably starting to feel the pressure to deliver on the day.

What is clear is that it appears to be a lively event focused around knowledge sharing and networking. That is something I can wholeheartedly support. Communication professionals don’t take enough time in an increasingly stretched and busy world to step back and reassess things. They rush from one thing to another and are so focused on delivering that they can become isolated if they work in-house or distant if they are in an agency.

Learning is an incredibly important part of daily life and I am hugely supportive of all communication professionals undertaking some form of continuous professional development. It is essential if we are to be able to provide the best possible service to whoever we are working to support. I know that every time communicators get together they end up sharing information, knowledge and tips. People go away with new friends and connections that they will be happy to help in the future. A conference that focuses on this sharing, interaction and support has to be applauded.

The interesting approach of Commshero seems to appeal to the creativity within communicators.

Bringing out creativity and new ways of thinking is another essential for communication professionals. Communication at the heart is about problem solving, being faced with an issue and then finding a way of dealing with it. The ways we can do this can be different, unusual and innovative. We just need to keep seeing those opportunities when we are in the daily grind of work.

I hope to see a few friendly faces at the Commshero event on 13 May in Manchester and I will provide a follow-up blog about the experience. Time for me think about learning and to gather my inner creativity ready unleash my inner hero.

Unleash your imagination and you can fly anywhere

a blog from Caroline King, Group Head of Brand & Communications, Torus

Communicating is all about telling a story.

In fact the ‘new’ way of describing the key skills of the discerning communicator these days seems to be about story telling. This irritates me a tad as surely there is no other definition?!

As a child I ate books for breakfast. As an only child with a scary imagination and endless curiously I would immerse myself in books and wile away many a day imagining I was exploring The Secret Garden or going on adventures as part of the Secret Seven (the Famous Five was far too mainstream!). I also fantasised daily about being sent to Mallory Towers on the strength of being able to own a tuck box and indoor shoes! Fast forward over 30 years I am now a story teller to my son and spend most evenings imagining I am George with his marvellous medicine or Charlie Bucket searching for the elusive golden ticket.

Books are stories and communicating is about telling a story, often somebody else’s. In housing communications that might be a story about why moving into that shared ownership home changed the life of Jake and Katie? How getting online helped Jean to save time, money or keep in touch with friends. I could go on. If you work in Comms then every day brings its Jakes, Katie’s, Jean’s and many more characters that you need to bring to life, create a story for and share it with your audience. Without a story to capture their imagination then it can be hard to get across your message. Just think about the adverts you watch on TV every night? They are all stories and some will chime with you and others make you reach for the remote control.

So what does all of this have to do with CommsHero? Well my own personal involvement with CommsHero started in early 2014 when I was asked to Chair the first ever event. In fact as soon as the seed of hero was sown I was asked for my honest opinion in whether it would fly or fail. Anybody who knows me will tell you that the opportunity to create something fresh and different is always my preferred course of action. Throw in a cape and you have yourself a deal!

I was terrified about chairing the first event and had no idea how to pitch my session. The approach I opted for was incredibly simple. Tell one short chapter of my story. I did that and the overriding feedback I received was that my passion for Comms and my job shone through. I am an expressive person, never short of something to say and YES I am unashamedly in love with my job so I wasn’t surprised by that feedback although it was still affirming and flattering to hear.

Having been part of the entire Hero journey to date I can honestly say that I’ve never seen such a happy bunch of delegates at the beginning, middle and end of an event. I have snoozed my way through many an event, dreaming up ways to escape early and head back home!

CommsHero even has a loyal Twitter following who attend in a virtual way and get stuck in, not just at events, but all year round! Lets be realitistic, there are also dissenters. Hero is not for everyone but I want to personally urge you to accept the challenge to be a hero for the day, meet some amazing people, listen to speakers who do the same job as you and I and get stuck into some of the creative challenges we have lined up on the day.

On May 13th head to Manchester and instead of telling other people’s stories, take the first step to writing a chapter of your own.

Hope to see you there.

Find me on Twitter @Caroline_Torus

Tell your Chief Exec

A blog by Lee Grasby, Marketing Manager at Resource & Co-Founder of CommsHero

We’re now on the cusp of our fifth ‘award winning’ CommsHero event. Quite a feat when you think that it was an idea born out of a conversation on a train journey to London. By the time we returned the brand had been established, a strategy was in place and within two months we’d filled 80 places for the inaugural event at Bridgewater Hall, Manchester.

Of course such a thing doesn’t just happen by itself. It takes a great team of people to make it happen, in this case resource, because everything about CommsHero (with the exception of the speakers) has been delivered in house. We identified a gap in the conference market. People were delivering the same format, the cost of a ticket was upwards of £250 and it was questionable what you actually took away in terms of knowledge that you could apply in your day job.

Anyway, on to my point. At every CommsHero event, without exception, people have said

“I wish my Chief Exec was here”

or “my Line Manager”. Basically the feeling is that CommsHero is a great opportunity for those who don’t work in Comms or Marketing to appreciate the cool stuff that can really help to shape your business. Sometimes it takes top level decisions to influence changes for the better and I guess that by having the people there who can make those decisions really helps.

But that’s not all. For any curious Chief Exec who’s thinking of attending they can expect to experience a day like no other. It’s a fast-paced, interactive day of learning, sharing, participating and taking away techniques that will help you in your day job and to appreciate the challenges and opportunities faced by those who work in Comms across the many channels we often take for granted.

So tell your Chief Exec to keep Wednesday 13th May free because they won’t regret it.