Sausage rolls socks would complement the cape rather nicely

I’m fairly new to the #CommsHero world, little did I know
that despite living and breathing comms since Uni, there was such a huge bunch
of awesome people waiting to say hello and unleash their inner hero. The
tables, perfectly set with personalised note books and goody bags full of swag,
built excitement on arrival and whilst itching to find my cape (I had a red
one) I held off until the break to listen as the speakers began.

The ever lovely, smiley Helen Reynolds opened the event and
set the scene for a motivating, energetic day. 
I was lucky enough to benefit from Helen’s social media training
recently so it’s always good to see her IRL. 
Then Mr Grant Leboff – he took my mind off my cape and mask with his
great, upbeat delivery about brand authenticity and reputation.  More thought-provoking stuff followed by
Yorkshire Tea’s Sam Ward and Gina Stringer, on the importance of ‘doing things
proper’.  Celebrity endorsements aren’t
something I can easily relate to coming from the public sector, but the part
about investing in relationships is on point and as important as strategy. Relationship
building is something we can all do, whichever sector we work in.

Mr Choudry! Great to meet Asif before breaking for lunch.
What he has done is create an environment (on and offline) which celebrates
comms and drives home the importance of believing in yourself.  Thanks to Asif, in #CommsHero we have a
community to share ideas and challenges; we can all feel empowered and be
‘thought leaders’.

Lunch time brought about much excitement. Not only could I
finally get the cape and mask on – it fit like a dream – but I could also have
a spin on the wheel of #dunkability.  This
was a long awaited moment for me and it turns out that jammie dodgers have
incredibly good staying power.

After enjoying a Greggs sausage roll – why didn’t I try the
vegan one?? – the afternoon session opened with Greggs who talked through their
very entertaining campaigns including of course, the vegan sausage roll and
romantic Valentine’s suppers. What really came across from Fiona Mills and Ian
White though took me back to the whole theme of the day – keeping it real and
being authentic. Greggs celebrate who they are, they celebrate their staff and
their customers. They deliver what people want from their brand and it turns
out that sausage roll socks are a part of this! #sockenvy

Next up, Liam Smith of Yorkshire Wildlife Park, he was so
incredibly entertaining and uplifting. He really does put the human into social
media and offered lots of very quirky, comical ideas about how to really engage
audiences. But then he did have photos of mongooses so he was winning from the
start. Either way, he certainly had us glued to our seats.

The day concluded with Helena Langdon, formerly of innocent,
with her accidental success of a travelling office stapler which went viral, to
never under-estimating the power of non-sense. The penguin awareness day is now
a firm fixture in my diary. You had to be there.

So now I am back in the office, I have ideas and my
colleagues have swag envy. If there’s one thing I have learned from my day in
Manchester, it’s that I can’t wait to book my place for the next #CommsHero.
And this time I think I may have company. Until then a huge virtual fist bump
to my new #CommsHero buddies.

CommsHero - Keeping it real since 2014

by Josephine Graham @iojosy

I’ve never worked in London. I’ve visited a few times and it’s
nice enough. You’ve got some great museums, a few palaces and a heck of a lot
of company headquarters.

And with all that corporate workforce to cater for, London
also has scores of breakfast briefings, drinks receptions, and conferences
galore to keep everyone networked up and on top of their game.

But guess what. 88% of this country’s population is outside
London. And even the CIPR’s latest State
of the Profession
report recognises that around three quarters of PR
practitioners exist beyond our capital.

So across our nation, from Aberdeen to Anglesey, Belfast to
Bridlington, there are tens of thousands of dedicated, talented comms and PR types,
for whom a trip to London, for an expensive conference or post-work networking
event, with the associated travel and hotel costs, is just not that accessible.
That goes for our colleagues in the countless in-house and agency teams around
the UK, but is doubly the case for anyone operating their own small business,
or working in a public sector or not-for profit organisation.

This is the issue that Bradford-born Asif Choudry set out to
address in 2014 when he first had the idea for CommsHero. Fed up of paying
hundreds of pounds for identikit conferences, being talked at by people from
businesses with budgets so immense you could never emulate anything they did,
he decided to take a risk (or ‘dare to fail’ as he puts it) and try something a
little different.

I won’t tell his full story here, but in summary, in the
space of eight weeks, Choudry launched the CommsHero brand, started spreading
the #CommsHero love on Twitter, and created an event in Manchester where 80
professionals gathered for a full day conference, with tonnes of swag (freebies)
and terrific speakers, for the highly modest price-tag of just £180.

Now in its fifth year, and after touring locations around
the UK including Bristol, Leeds and London (just so no one feels left out), the
twelfthCommsHero has just taken place, back in the place of its origin
– Manchester’s impressive Bridgewater
. And I was there.

How to approach
conferencing heroically

So CommsHero claims to be different, but is it really? Well,
I put it to you, at how many conferences can you expect to find an actual
superhero cape and mask in your goody bag, while opposite the coffee bar
there’s a dressing up rail and heroic backdrop for photo ops?

Meanwhile, rather than canapés and fizz, at the latest
CommsHero bash we enjoyed a mug of Yorkshire Tea and a choice of ‘dunkable’
biscuits. OK, so maybe tea and biscuits isn’t exactly ‘out there’ when it comes
to conference catering - but you don’t usually find a ‘wheel of dunkability’ to
help you choose which biscuit to go for.

But it’s not about the gimmicks, although they are fun.
People go to CommsHero because they get great networking, hear from thought
leaders like Grant Leboff,
find out industry trends from peers leading the way (Greggs, Yorkshire Tea, Yorkshire Wildlife Park and Innocent) plus all the extras such as
dazzling cartoonist and comms siren Helen
who popped along to compère.

So what about the

OK, OK I was getting around to this. The theme this time was
‘authenticity’ – #KeepingItReal. How can we be more human and relatable, be
true to our brands, be ‘proper’ (as Yorkshire Tea put it), find our natural
brand voice and have real conversations with our publics?   

The speakers took us on a journey, with each presentation creating
new avenues of thought on a consistent theme. You could not help but pick up
some useable or inspirational insights along the way, to help with the day job.
Here are my three top takeaways from the day.

1. Leboff on brand

Speaking about brand, author and expert Grant Leboff is
nothing short of gripping. I’m awe of the clarity and authority he brings – if
you ever get the opportunity to hear him speak, do not pass it up. “Brand is
the process of taking an inanimate or indistinguishable product or service, and
giving it meaning.” Like transforming a slightly sickly, fizzy brown liquid
into Coca Cola. Damn, he makes it sound so obvious!

Brand is a concept the public sector in particular often
struggles with. It’s so much more than a logo and coordinating colour palette. Leboff
provides a handy triangle to help us hone our thinking, combining (1) the
unique or special product or service we provide to our customers, (2) our ethos
or purpose why we bother and (3) the emotional connection we hope to make with
our stakeholders. This is brand. Boom! But trying to capture his wisdom is a blog
post (or indeed a book) in its own right, so I’ll quit while I’m ahead on that

2. Properness

As a committed Yorkshire Tea drinker, hearing from this
award winning team (represented by brand leads Sam Ward and Gina Stringer) was
always going to be a highlight for me. ‘Properness’ is the attitude, or ethos,
that brings the whole company, not just the comms and marketing team, together.

For example, when they wanted to create a biscuit domino
rally to launch their ‘biscuit brew’, they didn’t just film a few sections in a
studio and edit it together, oh no. They got a proper domino rally expert in,
set up a proper course in the Harrogate HQ, with real biscuits (carefully filed
so they would stand up straight), then filmed the whole thing in real time to make
a fantastically engaging film
which has had almost 1.5 million hits on YouTube.

To be honest, my main takeaway from this (as someone who has
spent the last 10 years working for a local council) was, wow, it must be nice
to work for a company where the public likes you! But of course,
notwithstanding that tea and coffee is somewhat more benign than your much- derided
local bin and council tax collectors, a great deal of that love is down to the
brilliant handling of the Yorkshire Tea brand by the team and business as a

It’s clear that the comms and marketing team combines exceptional
creativity with a robust strategic planning approach – while always allowing a
bit of give for capitalising on unexpected gifts, such as a World Cup
footballer casually mentioning Yorkshire Tea is his favourite brand. (They
reacted quickly and sent him a personalised box of tea – gaining a huge amount
of positive media coverage as a result.)

With so many ideas and opportunities, they use a handy
approach to choose what to prioritise – only if an idea will appeal to their
customers, their media stakeholders AND it fits their company ethos will it go

3. People like funny
posts about animals

I’ve been a fan of Liam Smith’s work since his Doncaster
Council days - he and former colleague Rob Jefferson are widely recognised as
game-changers in the world of council social media. Since his move to Yorkshire
Wildlife Park, Smith’s ingenuity has been further unleashed. He is naturally inventive
and hilarious and - bad news for us mere mortals - I think a portion of this is
innate talent which not everyone can learn. But all is not lost, because he
gamely shared many tips which any of us could adopt to create more engaging
content - whether for social media, internal comms or any other channel. 

He encourages us to take risks. Why – because otherwise we’re
in danger of being boring.  He also spoke
knowledgeably about ‘finding your voice’ – if your company were a person what
would they be like? In internal communications we sometimes fall foul of
lapsing into a boring corporate voice in our copy, because that’s what we are
sent by our managers or internal stakeholders, and we’re too busy to do
anything about it. So this was a timely reminder that, on a tactical level, it
is our job to inject a bit of spark and creativity into our communications, so
that the corporate voice represents a personality that people actually want to
hear from.

Smith’s key message for me was - make a flipping effort.
When asked to put out a job advert (potentially the “dullest content ever”) he
took a step back and challenged himself to do it in a more interesting way, and
ended up devising an interactive job interview on Instagram. (No, I didn’t know
that was possible either.) This resulted in more click-throughs to the
jobs page than any job-related social media the park had ever put out before.

That’s how CommsHero
types roll

The learning above represents just three of the great
speakers on the day – we also heard from Greggs, Innocent, and Mr Comms Hero,
Asif Choudry, himself. And this ace event, with bags of CPD, took place in
Manchester, 179 miles from London, playing to a room of delegates from
predominately not-for-profit and public sector organisations, for whom the £180
ticket was a realistic investment they could justify.

CommsHero is not the only affordable conference around – it
is part of a wave of free and reasonably priced learning events which have sprung
up around the country over the last few years. Often funded through
sponsorship, or made possible through the work of volunteers, these are
organised by people who care passionately about professional development and
want to make a difference. And that is what being heroic is all about.

No, You're The Hero

Not just any hashtag … it’s a CommsHero hashtag *camera to film custard seductively oozing out of a Krispy Kreme doughnut

I can’t remember the exact date I discovered the CommsHero hashtag, but I do remember that it changed my mindset, it helped me pursue my mission.

Yes, I know that may sound a little dramatic but let me explain. 

I’m a people person.  My heart is filled with happiness when I’m surrounded by people, my wish is for everyone to live a healthy and happy life, I want everyone to reach their full potential, I need everyone to know that it’s not selfish to put your physical and mental health first. 

I’ve been freelancing for over 2 years now, mainly creating content to help organisations engage with their workforce (aka their greatest asset and don’t you dare forget that). I spend a lot of time on my own at my desk in my house instead of being surrounded by 1,500 corporate colleagues which I did for nearly two decades.  #CommsHero became my lifeline – it opened up a whole new world to me – in seconds I can connect and engage with like-minded creative people.


The creation of this hashtag has brought together a community, without it I’d probably be sat at my desk and dare I admit it – maybe consider ditching the freelance life and getting myself a j.o.b.! Thanks Asif, you’re a legend!

My first CommsHero Conference

Say what! A room full of others who love the CommsHero hashtag? People I follow and ‘chat’ to on social media in the actual flesh!  Hell to the yeah – sign me up!

And there I was, handwritten ticket in hand (if you think Charlie Bucket was excited when he found his non-personalised gold ticket schmicket in a filthy grid think again!) about to walk into the Bridgewater Hall on my own in a room full of people I hadn’t met IRL*. 

What the AF** was I worried about, I was surrounded by familiar faces – thank you hashtag.

There are bits about being a freelancer that suck!

Being freelance means I get to work in my pyjamas – all day if I want.  I can market myself how I want to with no sign off – I worked for a bank for 18 years and you have no idea how good that feels.  I can (and do) drink Yorkshire Tea constantly without any judgemental looks (nothing to do with the choice of brand, everything to do with the quantity I consume).  Ultimately, I get to be me.  I get to live out my personal goals and values.

But being alone sucks.  I launched Redwood Copy with one aim.  That was to help companies find more creative ways to engage with their staff – even just communicate with them would be a start whether that is through the written word or actually speaking! You can have the best strategies and plans in place to boost that bottom line, but if your workforce aren’t feeling the love – you can kiss goodbye to it – simple as!

There were many moments when I worked in the gloriously boring world of finance (sorry ex-colleagues and bankers across the world) when I would simply day-dream about running my own copywriting business and my purpose.  Allow me to share one such moment with you:

For this to make sense I need you to know that I have Crohn’s disease (having any invisible illness and working for a large corporation is a ruddy challenge and tests the strongest of people, even Strongy McStrongface***).

Me chatting inwardly to myself while scanning the sea of heads in an open plan office crippled with the pain that Crohn’s cruelly brings: “You lot don’t know how lucky you are.”

Colleague walking past 10 mins later after getting themselves a cuppa and not bringing me one (aka tw*t): “Hi Mand, you look well.”

I look WHAT now!  He couldn’t have been further from the truth, but why would he know? Maybe he would have brought me a brew if he did know I was feeling like shit – btw ‘getting yourself a cup of tea without asking if anyone else wants one’ is a crime in my eyes and yes, I hold grudges.  Statistically 1 in 4 of us experience poor mental health every year, so why did I assume that my fellow colleagues were all OK.  Probably to do with the fact that we don’t talk, we’ve forgotten how to communicate, or maybe we feel that if we open up, our story will stop our chances of succeeding or getting promotion.  Sod that … organisations need to treat everyone as individuals – motivate them, embrace diversity, make adjustments, support them and develop them to be their best selves.  It should not be seen as an unnecessary cost – it’s an investment.

Redwood Copy launched.  I knew my purpose, my core values and my goals.

But I was doing this alone. 

Authentic connections

The theme of the conference was Authenticity.  Bloody brilliant – let’s all be a bit more human in our communications.  Weirdly, this doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people.  As soon as they put a pen in their hand or place a finger on a keyboard formality kicks in.  We’ve all done it, it’s time to stop that crap and realise that the people you are communicating to are just that – real life people with families, worries of their own, in need of a bit of humour, craving for some genuinely authentic emotional connections.

The theme didn’t disappoint, and I learnt so much from the most talented people in the world of comms - Grant Leboff, Hel Reynolds and the marketing and PR gurus from Yorkshire Tea, Greggs, Yorkshire Wildlife Park (The UKs number 1 walk-through wildlife adventure) and Innocent.  It would have taken me weeks to research the expertise they shared on the day.  Plus, I got to enjoy Greggs’ delights, plenty of proper brews and my very first Krispy Kreme - hhhmmmmm dreamy!

bridgewater hall.jpg
personalised swag.jpg
yorkshire tea.jpg

Even better, I made my own authentic connections.  I met my twitter fam.  These are the colleagues I CHOOSE to have.  The colleagues who inspire me every day. The colleagues who never fail to make me laugh.  The colleagues who support me without even realising they are doing it. 

So, a word to all freelancers out there.  It’s hard, I know it is, but there are people out there who bring communities together and keep us emotionally happy and healthy, they do this alongside their day jobs – yes, I am talking about the team at We Are Resource committed to bring amazing marketing communications to life.  They really are heroes.

If you haven’t discovered the CommsHero hashtag, take a peek.  It may just spark a beautiful relationship.

Oh, and thanks for inviting me on stage to say a few words too.  My mum would have been proud.  Not because of my bravery to speak in front of a large room full of frickin’ heroes, but because I managed not to swear. 

Keep it real everyone, Amanda x

*in real life

**actual flip

***unoriginal idea for a name, heavily influenced by Boaty McBoatface (polar exploration ship which ended up with a much safer name - BORING!) and Gritty McGritface (Shropshire Council’s gritter name).  I’m proud to know (thanks again to the CommsHero conference) the person responsible for Doncaster Council’s poll to find a name for their gritter – David Plowie.  Genius, and no Mc or Face in sight.  For the record I also liked the other choices of Basil Salty, Spready Mercury and Usain Salt.  You de man Liam!

An epic learning experience, on a truly heroic scale

by Josephine Graham @iojosy

I can’t exactly
remember the first time I noticed #CommsHero. It was a couple of years ago,
maybe slightly more. There I was, a peaceful citizen of the world of work-related
social networking, wandering amiably along the streets of Twitter City, when I
looked up and spotted a dazzling streak, way up high.

Was it a bird? Was it
a meme? No, it was #CommsHero!

I watched in wonder as
our champion zipped about the Twittersphere, anointing and applauding worthy
#CommsHero types as it went.

Gosh, I pondered. How
does one become accepted into this illustrious alliance?

It seemed like the
coolest club in town, so I typed ‘aspiring #CommsHero’ into my Twitter biog and
waited to see what might happen next…

OK, let’s pause there. Before anyone gets too excited, this
story doesn’t continue with Christopher Reeve/Dean Cain/Henry Cavill (delete
according to demographic) swooping down to rescue me from Lex Luthor just
before he brainwashes me into producing tedious and unengaging comms.

Rather more prosaically, a few months later I saw a tweet
about the 2018 #CommsHero event in Leeds, and resolved to get a ticket. (Easier
said than done when you work in local government, but we’ll chat more about
that another time.)  Lucky me, I live in
Leeds, so at least I didn’t need to fill out a purchase req. for the bus fare.

I was super-excited about meeting my #CommsHeroes IRL
(that’s In Real Life by the way) and that probably overshadowed how I felt
about the speakers. I was looking forward to seeing the ‘Innocent lady’ (Helena
Langdon), the crafty and creative Doncaster Council lot and the very lovely
Helen Reynolds. To my very great shame I hadn’t actually heard of Grant Leboff
(I’m not from a sales and marketing background, what can I say, I’M SORRY!)

I was blown away by how much the event exceeded my
expectations. Hearing from Mr Leboff was worth the ticket price alone. The way
he clarified what it actually means to engage, why we need to create content
that has intrinsic value and just how much content is the right amount – I felt
like someone had placed a tube in my ear, syphoning incredible insights directly
into my brain. The number of times I have mentally referred back to that over
the last year... well to be honest I wasn’t actually counting but it’s been
quite a few.

Every speaker had something different to offer and I haven’t
even mentioned all the fun stuff and freebies yet. The CommsHero guys go all
out to make all the delegates feel special, with personalised swag and lots of
super goodies including (last year at least) everyone’s favourite Krispy Kreme
doughnuts and a crate full of Innocent smoothies.

So, yes, the event was pretty special, which is why I am
going again this year. The #FOMO would have been too much to bear.

But before you rush off to get your ticket, or quietly
congratulate yourself for already having yours, there is one more quick point
to make.

Blogs are not marketing copy, they should be written from
the heart. And when the #CommsHero 2019 event theme is authenticity, this is
doubly important.

Over the last couple of years I’ve been maximising every
learning experience I can get. I go to anything I can that’s free or local, and
I’ll go further afield to connect with like-minded people. Working in
cash-strapped local government, I pay for a lot of stuff myself.  I get involved, I contribute to the comms
community and I have fun doing it. I’ve made good friends along the way and
found that there are some really special people out there, who want to make our
profession better, and make being part of our profession better for all of us
working in it.

I admire the #CommsHero brand because it is supportive,
celebratory, inclusive and genuine. What I know now, that I didn’t know when I
first saw that heroic cape zooming across the digital sky, is that everyone can
be a member of the club. You don’t need to go to the event (although I would
recommend it!), or know a secret code, you just need to be authentically you,
caring about what you do, doing your best to connect and share, and learning as
you go along.

So if you are going to the event on 6 June I’ll see you
there. In the meantime, I’m just going to practice wearing my cape.

The Connection

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.

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
  • 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

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.

#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

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

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.

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.

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.

SANDYS – @_amyms

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.

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 . 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.

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.

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:

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…

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.

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?

Bridge – RHP UK Comms