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Why CommsHero?

Having kicked around comms, engagement and marketing teams for a while now, CommsHero has always been one of those things that has cropped up in my timeline that looked like fun but personally I never really had the opportunity to explore it further (makes you wonder what I’ve been up to all these years).

Then I had the privilege of joining The Wrekin Housing Group to head up Communications and Marketing. From day one (actually it was before then), the team have waxed lyrical about CommsHero, the ethos, what it stands for and what engaging and creative sessions there are during the conferences. Then the Resource guys came down for a chat, and of course to share some red sparkly clad stash. I’m totally sold on the concept so I’ve been asked to share why I think it’s important as many of you as possible get involved.  

So why has a CommsHero virgin committed to taking the whole team along for the day?

There are five reasons which you’ll already know if you’ve watched the vlog:

  • First and foremost I think it’s really important that, as comms and marketing professionals providing a central creative service in our organisations, we constantly look forward for fresh ideas and inspiration. I’m really looking forward to some networking and to hearing about and sharing some of the trials and tribulations of happenings in the marketing office.
  • I’ve been promised some awesome interactive creative sessions. So let’s get creative, get out of our comfort zones, test some ideas and dare to fail.
  • Those who’ve seen the vlog will have noticed what a masterclass in product placement it is….. and we all know that brands love product placement. I’m always excited to hear from well-known brands. CommsHero 2019 does not disappoint here. Yorkshire Tea and Innocent are both on the menu (literally, I hope).
  • You’ll hear from leading lights from across the worlds of comms and marketing. It’s always great to be in a room, gleaning as much information as possible from these people.  
  • Then we come to the theme: Authenticity. We’re in a housing and public sector comms world at the moment where there is so much focus on openness and transparency and to deliver on this in an engaging way it requires authenticity.  

And if all that wasn’t enough I’m promised that there will be real life unicorns and plenty of dunking, so what’s not to like? So Team Wrekin will be representin’ at CommsHero 2019 – I hope you will too.

See you in Manchester on June 6th (the day before my birthday).

Don’t suffer from #FOMO (fear of missing out) – #CommsHero

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.

Learning Through Failure

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

Why Chair?

To say I was honoured and filled with excitement to be asked to chair the final @CommsHero event of 2016 could be a slight understatement. However, with that giddiness came with it a feel of responsibility – these events get A LOT of attention and A LOT of coverage; quite rightly so.

In addition, the previous 2 have been huge successes chaired by the awesome @paulwdiggory and @ChloeAlexandra7 – a housing legend welsh superstar and an award winning innovator, merely delivering a concept derived from an award winning marketing agency @weareresource; no pressure for the one who sells homes for a living and thinks, no i KNOW, unicorns are real!

The theme is #daretofail though right? – and I’m all for a challenge.

As the awesome @simonsinek preaches we should always startwithwhy.com . Before you get chance to settle down and read the great mans work, ill tell you what i mean by it.

  • What is your why?
  • Why do you do what you do?
  • What drives you?
  • What motivates you and keeps you going?

People buy why we do what we do, not what we do. When i say buy, this doesn’t have to be a product or service, it can and should be your passion and/or your vision.

We often forget this, and we often forget that we have a reason ‘why’; we get this confused with the need to pay bills, earn a certain amount or have a certain job title for example.

We would all feel like winners a lot more, if only we would all just take a few more moments to appreciate that those measures of success are actually by products of our ability and tenacity to act upon our ‘why’, along with a #daretofail bloody mindedness that exists in all of us, therefore making sure our own personal crusades are won.

We all know that the one thing that sets @CommsHero apart from any other ‘conference’ that you may go to is the levels of engagement and true relationship building that occurs.

The team are nothing short of genius in bringing their delegates together prior to the event, connecting those with similar interests and views. So when 50-60 people arrive in a room at 9,30am desperately searching for coffee, they are also greeted by smiling faces of people they have never met #IRL (in real life – that ones for you @MLawrenceJourno) and feel like they already know them. That awkward desperate search to view the name card hung round peoples necks, are replaced with face recognition smiles from online profiles and a hug as a welcome; already the event is 3 hours ahead of your standard conference.

This continues throughout the day with constant online and offline engaged chats, but here is the gem – the one thing that I’m still astounded no one else does – the engagement continues not just for that evening, or the day after but for months after. Here is the real success – because you have been connected with people who share an element of your ‘why’ you personally invest in that relationship thereafter and your commonalty is -‘oh yeah, we met at @CommsHero. A few of mine are:

@KevinW_Wulvern – he steals tee shirts from you though so i would steer clear!

@petebond7 – his fave film is Cocktail – whats not to like?

@MLawrenceJourno – he watches Princess Diaries (awks) and travels to Ireland to meet people in real life

@suzanne_DSmith – she likes horses and is lovely

@Caroline_Torus – THE original @CommsHero chair and defo worth a follow for @elfontheshelf festive antics

@AnnamDesmond – a proud @CommsHero tee wearer and fellow unicorn appreciator

So, this is a little ask to all you lovely peeps that have booked on for Manchester on the 29th – before you arrive re visit your ‘why’ and take some time to make friends with it again. Having this exposed to yourself along with the environment that these heroes put you in means that the success of you implementing your own #daretofail when you get back to normality will be greater.

You are taking the time to come along, a ton of work is gone in to this event to make sure you get more than the actual event on the run up to and after (excluding the personalised SWAG!) – do your bit too and lets make the sector brace itself for a whole host of energised brave professionals, working together nationally to implement project #daretofail

I can’t wait to see you on the 29th, and hey – I may even share my ‘why’ with you!

Amy Nettleton – Aster head of sales and marketing 

Failure is not final

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” – Henry Ford

I went to a fantastic conference this week. #CommsHero, hosted by the lovely guys at resource, is all about bringing like-minded communications professionals together to hear from influential speakers, share best practice and, crucially, to have some fun away from the office. The theme of the day was Dare To Fail. A brave, bold move because as we all know, the connotations of failure aren’t typically positive.

Comms Hero is all about looking at things from a different perspective and being innovative – something we embrace at RHP. Ironically, one of my first encounters with RHP – The Interview – was a bit of a fail. When asked what I thought of the new strategy video on their website, in my excitement I started saying how great it was, and how powerful the messages were. The sticking point was that I hadn’t actually seen it at all. I was just so enthusiastic about the job that I wanted to please people and be on their side. I was caught out of course, by my generic answer, and asked specifically what I liked about the video. At which point I had to hold my hands up and admit that I hadn’t actually seen it at all. I explained that I’d been concentrating more on reading the publications that I’d be working on, and when I checked their website, the video hadn’t been uploaded.

Then I went home, poured a glass of wine and cried for three hours. The job I’d really wanted and desperately needed was now definitely, totally, unquestionably out of my reach. And then something unexpected happened. A couple of days later while I was shopping in Poundland, the phone rang, offering me the job. They told me they really liked my honest approach. Turns out failing isn’t always bad – and crucially for me, RHP didn’t mind that I’d messed up, because I’d owned up about it and anyway, they were looking at the bigger picture, and all the other things I’d done right. I’ve now been at RHP for three years. I often look back on this experience and use it as a reminder to others that if you think you’ve failed, guess what? It might not be as bad as you think.

And so my team and I headed to #CommsHero, superhero masks in hand, to find out why we should be daring to fail more often. The coffee was great, the pastries were delicious, and there were some lovely personalised goodies waiting for us, like notebooks and business cards (because resource are awesome like that). Definitely no signs of failure so far…

Chloë Marsh, RHP’s Head of Engagement (and my superstar manager) was our Chair for the day. She dared to fail weeks ago by agreeing to take to the mic – we knew she’d smash it but it was definitely out of her comfort zone – and what better role model to introduce proceedings? Firstly, if we were going to fail we had to step out of our comfort zones, so on discovering little cards with ‘my comfort zone’ printed on them we were told to give them away. Relinquishing something physical was really effective (I tried to keep half but that wasn’t an option). We started the day with an introduction and ice breaker from visual communications specialist Fran O’Hara. I’d seen Fran’s work on Twitter so I was keen to see some in person, and I wasn’t disappointed. Fran sketches the day, picking out the key points from each speaker and recreating them in glorious felt tip Technicolor. Fran encouraged us to pick up our own pens and draw our very own Comms Hero. For some it was intimidating and for others liberating, but it brought everyone together as we shared our creations.
notesNext up was Grant Leboff, who delivered a powerful and thought-provoking speech on ‘growth hacking’ – the process of experimenting across marketing channels to identify the most effective, ways to grow a business and engage its users. I’d go as far as saying that a lot of what Grant said was life changing for me and will make me re-evaluate the way I communicate and advise others. Having worked in comms for 10 years, across a pivotal time for the sector, I’ve seen a lot of change, noticeably in how we consume news and share content, and I’ve had to shift my focus away from print and towards social – which is now the biggest news source. Grant explained how failure is inevitable in marketing, because we’ll never achieve a 100% response rate. Surveys are no good, because people will often tell us what they think we want to hear. The way around this is to use predictive analytics: behavioural data that allows us to anticipate what our customers will want and create content they’ll want to share. We need to stop producing marketing that’s about what we do: we need to understand who we do it for, and be elegantly simple in our execution. To do this we can fail fast in small ways: trying out lots of different approaches until we find what works. So as soon as I’ve finished writing this, I’m going to take a look at our e-newsletter numbers and listen to what they might be telling us, as I have a sneaky suspicion they’re not as audience-focussed as we’d like to think.

Next was Helen Reynolds, who encouraged us all to embrace our work blunders and learn from them. I want to be just like her when I grow up – she was funny, relatable and really honest. With sparkly shoes! Helen shared a couple of her own mistakes with us that she’s made throughout her career, as well as the lessons she’s learnt. It’s thanks to her that I decided to write this blog after a couple of months of not producing content, because she told us all to find ourselves and do what we believe in. I’ve always felt that blogging is a natural progression for me but have been held back by the fear that no one will read my stuff. Well guess what? I’m going to feel the fear and do it anyway, because like Helen says, done is better than perfect. Making your failures a story is also important because they’re defining moments. Your failure story makes your success story even stronger! Hence the reason for sharing my interview fib fiasco.

After lunch Innovation Coach Paul Taylor (he invented his own job title, how cool is that?!) introduced us to Bromford’s Innovation Lab, and dared us to be
different. The Innovation Lab is a way of helping colleagues try out their ideas in a safe environment, creating user-centred design. When they started the Lab, Bromford allowed themselves a 70% failure rate, because it’s only by failing that we can learn and move forward. Paul firmly believes a prototype is worth 1,000 meetings – music to my ears! – so whatever your job role, create stuff, experiment, be wrong as fast as you can and create innovation envy. Innovation doesn’t have to be rocket science either: it’s just about spotting opportunities and solving problems.

The final talk of the day came from Tim Scott, HR and social media consultant, who shed light on some of the reasons why HR teams can be reluctant to embrace social media and how we as comms professionals can help them overcome this fear and bring our corporate and social brands closer together. He explained that by just being you, diving in and sharing stuff you can maximise on its potential to find new ideas and ways to share information. I’ll definitely be sharing the benefits of Twitter with our L&D and HR teams as it’s a mine of information where I’ve learnt so much and connected with fellow grammar geeks.

And then it was over. My team and I took so much away from the day that we’re just dying to try out at RHP. There were oodles of practical tips and tricks that we can use right now to support the rest of the organisation, create engaging comms and deliver excellent customer service. There were others we’ll try later along the line, and if they don’t work, we’ll capture the learning. In the spirit of #CommsHero, we’ll #DareToFail. After all, what’s the worst that can happen?

Claire Bridge – RHP UK Comms