Changing it up: A dare to fail moment

Katie Sandey is the communications and marketing manager for Cheltenham Borough Council and now, Cheltenham Borough Homes, as part of a new shared service.

She has worked in communications since university, is a member of CIPR and has been part of the #CommsHero community for four years, having attended and taken part in lots of inspirational online events, discussions and in person conferences.

Katie is a huge supporter of #CommsHero and all that it stands for in encouraging people to connect, share ideas and showcase successes.

“It started as a simple idea for my comms team away day. Who better to inspire and excite the team than the person who started it all, #CommsHero founder, Asif Choudry.

So I set up a teams meeting to ask Asif to record a quick 2 minute video, for the team, so that I could use it to open the session and really get the team thinking about ways to grow, think even more creatively, continue to grow our audiences and win (more!) awards. Unleash their inner comms hero.

Asif and I had a great brainstorming session but I could tell early on that Asif, with his even bigger ideas, was about to scale this up into a true #DareToFail moment. Of course he’d make a video and was more than happy to support the away day, he knows what a team of true #CommsHero advocates we really are. But it wasn’t going to stop there. Cue the moment that I agreed to step out of my comfort zone.

Before I knew it, in true #CommsHero fashion, I was agreeing to partake in a special, bonus episode of the #CommsHero podcast. In this episode, the tables are turned. I am the one asking Asif the questions.  I have never made a podcast, or done the interviewing, until now.  It was a ‘yikes’ moment for me, but also I realised for Asif.  He had never been in the hotseat. In this special episode, we find out about Asif’s story, how it all began, some stand out moments for him and what he values the most about the community that he has grown.”

Katie Sandey

Communications and Marketing Manager

Asif Choudry

CommsHero Founder


Podcast questions:

  1. How would you describe #CommsHero to others?
  2. When you talk about the value of the #CommHero community, can you explain more about what this means to you?
  3. There must have been a time when you ‘just’ did the day job. It’s been 9 years since #CommsHero was born- where did it all begin?
  4. Will there be a 10th birthday party?
  5. Why do you love what you do?
  6. What inspires you? As a creative, where do you get your ideas?
  7. When you dust off your cape and put it on, what’s your comms super power?
  8. How do you avoid burnout?
  9. #CommsHero has grown from strength to strength – even the pandemic presented new opportunities. What’s next? What does the future look like?

Podcast transcript here:

Disclaimer: this is an automated transcript. Please don’t call the grammar police on us. You never know, we may have ChatGPT writing our next one…


Asif Choudry (00:05):

Hello and welcome to another episode in the You’re my CommsHero podcast. And I’m your host, Asif Choudry. Today my guest is Katie Sandy. , Katie is the communications and marketing manager for Cheltenham Borough Council, and now Cheltenham Borough Homes as part of a new shared service. So double the workload potentially, I dunno, we might find out. So Katie’s worked in communications since university and is a member of the CIPR and has been part of the CommsHero community for four years now, having attended and taken part in lots of inspirational online events, discussions, and our last in-person conference, which was back in 2019 in Manchester. Um, Katie’s definitely a huge supporter of the Comms Hero network and community and all that it stands for in encouraging people to connect, share ideas, and showcase successes. So Katie, I’d like to welcome you to the podcast. First of all,

Katie Sandey (00:57):

Thank you very much. Great to be here

Asif Choudry (01:00):

And in a change to our usual programming, as they say on the tele. Um, for this episode, we’re going to change things up and I’m going to hand over to Katie now to explain, and I’m quite nervous at this moment because this is like turning the table. So, Katie, it’s over to you.

Katie Sandey (01:18):

Okay, so it started as a simple idea for my comms team Awayday, who better to inspire and excite the team than the person who started it all. Comms Hero, founder Asif Choudry. So I set up a teams meeting to ask Asif to record a quick two minute video for the team so that I could use it to open the session and really get the team thinking about ways to grow, think even more creatively, continue to grow our online audiences and win more awards, unleash their intercoms heroes. So, Asif and I had a great brainstorming session, but I could tell early on that Asif, with his even bigger ideas, was about to scale this up into a true dare to fail moment. Of course, he’d make a video and was more than happy to support the away day. He knows what a team of true comms here at Advocates.

Katie Sandey (02:02):

We really are. But it wasn’t going to stop there. Cue the moment that I agreed to step out of my comfort zone before I knew it. In true comms hero fashion, I was agreeing to partake in a special bonus episode of the Comms Hero podcast. In this episode, the tables are turned. I’m the one asking of the questions. I’ve never made a podcast or done the interviewing until now. It was a yikes moment for me, but also I realized for Asif, he’d never been in the hot seat. In this special episode, we find out about Asif story, how it all began, some standout moments for him and what he values the most about the community that he’s grown.

Asif Choudry (02:40):


Speaker 3 (02:42):

<laugh>. Yikes. Indeed, <laugh>.

Katie Sandey (02:45):

So without further ado, , we’ve got some quick fire questions, Asif, to get to know you a little bit better before we delve into the the deeper questions. , these are really important, important questions that I think the audience are really gonna want to know the answers to. Favorite snack

Asif Choudry (03:01):

<laugh>. I’ve had these questions in advance, but it doesn’t make it any easier, so I feel sorry for all my guests now when I ask them.

Katie Sandey (03:07):

You’re on the spot now.

Asif Choudry (03:08):

Favourite snack is a difficult, I’ve got a really bad sweet tooth and I always have done. So it have to be a, a humble custard cream biscuit.

Katie Sandey (03:16):

Oh, well, it’s funny you should say that because my next quickfire question relates to biscuits, as you can probably predict the biscuit with the strongest dunk ability potential is

Asif Choudry (03:27):

It’s probably not the cus of cream. And having done the dunkability campaign a few years ago, um, pink wafers are absolutely shocking. Um,

Katie Sandey (03:34):

I can all I can imagine. Yeah. Yeah,

Asif Choudry (03:36):

But they’re not a good, they’re not a good dunker anyway. I don’t think you should do that. I’d say the

Katie Sandey (03:40):

They’re they’re a party pleaser, aren’t they?

Asif Choudry (03:42):

Yeah, they are. The, um, Scottish shortbread or a ho knob.

Katie Sandey (03:49):

And do you have a spooned hand?

Asif Choudry (03:51):

You’ve got to, aren’t you any, any self respecting dunker? It’s a shout out for Ed Thomas here from Reen Housing Group. Um, would have a spoon probably always about their person.

Katie Sandey (04:02):

Yeah, absolutely. So you’re not staying loyal to your Casta queen then Interesting.

Asif Choudry (04:07):

As a snack, but as a dunker, I still dunk them, but, um, , yeah, not the strongest Dunker, definitely not,

Katie Sandey (04:13):

No. Okay. Um, so a bit of a tricky one possibly for you in person or virtual.

Asif Choudry (04:21):

, I don’t think you’ll ever, ever be in person, but when virtual is done right, it’s not as good. It, it’s just impossible for it to be as good. But I think if you can get the best of both with hybrid, because virtual’s got the benefits of just being more accessible to people. Um, and if you can do some exciting stuff with it, like we did with Com zero a week and just have a whole week of it, then we would never have been able to do that in person, , a five day in-person conference. And that would be something else, wouldn’t it? I think it would all be shattered by the end of that, but yeah, I, I like both, but, um, in-person is definitely the, um, preference for me.

Katie Sandey (05:00):

Okay. And we’ll come on, I think a little bit later to, um, the virtual conference and how things changed around during the pandemic and what that’s done comes here. It’ll be interesting to talk more about that. Um, okay. So, um, I think last quickfire question, most played song on your Spotify list, you can give more than one if that’s easier. <laugh> <laugh>,

Asif Choudry (05:17):

These are all, because I do the school run and my daughters take over the Spotify playlist, well, they’ve got their own playlists and that’s what I listen to. Um, the things that stick out in my mind are Green, green Grass by George Ezra. Um, there’s a song that is really irritating. It’s called World Cup, , and it’s just one of those that sticks in your mind. They’re probably the two that I remember. There’s loads that go on the playlist, but they’re the two. But for me personally, my own playlist is made up of podcasts, believe it or not. Sounds boring, but, you know, that’s my c p d moment. Um, absolutely the Marketing Meet Meetup, the CM Podcast Uncensored cmo. Um, the whole marketer tend to be my favorite ones. , diary of a CEO O if I can. The shorter episodes are quite good. So podcasts for me are most played on my Spotify.

Katie Sandey (06:10):

Excellent. We, we wouldn’t expect anything less from you. I think that that all makes sense. Alright, then. Good. Okay then. So, um, we’re gonna delve a little bit more, a little bit deeper now into Comm’s Hero and where it’s all come from and what it’s all about. So how would you describe Comm’s Hero to other people?

Asif Choudry (06:29):

Brilliant question. Um, I, I’d just say a community that is supportive of anyone who’s working in comms or aspiring to get into comms. You know, celebrating the heroics that comms people perform every day. And we just try to create a safe environment, um, a nice place where people can actually do that. Celebrating without fear of, oh, I’m blowing my own trumpet. While you need to, that’s what you are kind of professionals are doing. And it’s just seems to be that, , so many years on that’s exactly what’s happened. So yeah, I’d just say just a really good community of like-minded people that are willing to share best practice, support each other and big themselves up on their colleagues and, you know, be on the receiving end of some swag, which, you know, and at anyone complaining about receiving it. So yeah.

Katie Sandey (07:19):

Everybody loves a bit of swag, don’t they? Um, so when you talk about the value of the comms here community, can you explain more about what that means to you?

Asif Choudry (07:29):

, yeah. I think showcasing, , people who don’t normally get a chance, like you said, this is your first interview, first podcast. That’s been the common theme for most of the people who’ve been across the 80 episodes. And I have been approached on a small handful of occasions by people who have wanted to appear on the podcast primarily, um, that’s been kind of consultants who’ve wanted to come on and just promote their business and themselves rather than the content, which is not really what it’s about. You know, I prefer that community to, , the value that people get from it is showcasing them as individuals and the work that they do, helping them to celebrate the work that they’ve done and giving them a platform and doing that across a diverse range of people, , is really important and something I’ve always strived to try and achieve, um, , across that whole time that we’ve been in existence.

Asif Choudry (08:25):

And that’s just been a happy accident. It’s not been, um, something, oh, I need to go out and fill this quota or that quota. It’s not been about that. It’s the content first. I see the comms hero first and then everything else comes after that. And it’s, like I say, it’s genuinely been a happy accident, I suppose it’s just testament to the quality of the network that’s been built up in the community and, and the community itself. So it’s a, it’s a very important thing to, um, to myself and resources a business. I don’t think you could keep it, it going for this long if it wasn’t important. So it definitely means a lot to myself personally, our business, and hopefully the people that are in the community and benefit from it. Mm-hmm.

Katie Sandey (09:03):

<affirmative>. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Absolutely. And I think, you know, for me, I think what’s great about the concierge community is that we are all a part of that and we’ve helped to shape that. So, you know, I think everybody has a contribution to make in some way, don’t they? Um, and everybody’s got a story to tell and challenges and experiences to share, and they will resonate with someone. And I think that’s what’s great about the Comi community is that you’ve provided the platform for people to do that. Yeah. Like you’re say, in a safe space. Yeah, that’s

Asif Choudry (09:29):

Right, Katie. Yeah, because the, you know, every day there’s somebody who, , posts on the hashtag, usually on Twitter. We’ve done this all the way through this period of time, mainly organically through Twitter. Um, and people post jobs on there, genuinely have, we don’t have a jobs board on the website. Nobody pays to do any of that. We’re not trying to make money out of it. , people have posted and every day there’s two or three jobs that get posted on. And because people know if they’re posted in there, we will share it. Um, and I can pretty much guarantee that there’s only kind of two people who operate the accounts myself and, um, Kate Stan at resource. And we’re always active on those, um, , accounts. So that that gives you a massive buzz when people just put as you’ve done yourself, Katie, you know, hashtag com zero in your own Twitter bio. I mean, yeah. How amazing is that where people want to, will take your brand and what you stand for and actually put it to their name and give up their own, um, social media profile, real estate to your own hashtag, which is, it’s phenomenal to, none of this was stuff that I’d expected people to do, but it’s just been amazing to see. So you’ve got to value when people are contributing like that.

Katie Sandey (10:40):

So there must have been a time, and I think this is probably what lots of our audience are going to want to know, that there must have been a time when you just did the day job. Um, it’s been nine years, I think, since Contour was born. So, um, where did it all begin?

Asif Choudry (10:55):

, well, it was, um, in March, 2014 when after years of attending all the comms events that comms and marketing events that were, um, that were put on, were always in London. Now I’m based in leads. There’s lots of people who live and work outside of London who work in this profession. Um, and knowing comms and marketing people, as I have done working with them, I’ve always found them to be very creative. , people just by nature, it’s, I think it’s part and parcel of the job, but the events that we went to, , quite literally, you know, you go into a main keynote room, you’ll be, you’ll get some great presentations from people all fantastic. Some of them may be not so relatable because the budgets are just nowhere near what you would have or the headcount people have had the luxury of. It’s nothing that you could even dream of.

Asif Choudry (11:49):

And, and also going from keynotes then being asked to, um, just be, , ferried around this venue like penguins, um, into, right, choose your breakouts and there are three breakouts, but you want to, that are repeated in the afternoon, but you want to go to all three. So why don’t you just put two on and let us go to both of them. You saw some basic stuff and then people who’ve paid so much money, then their food being served and there’s not, there’s nowhere to sit. All these things here, they matter. Um, and the biggest thing out of the whole experience was networking. You could be an event with 300 fellow comms professionals, but you probably only meet two or three. There was no conversations that started before the event using social media. And we’re in comms for, you know, for crying out loud. So we know these things and how to, how to make them work.

Asif Choudry (12:42):

The hashtags joined the event. There was always confusion as to what’s the hashtag? Is it 2023? Is it 23? I don’t know. Um, so there’d be two separate conversations. There could even be three or four. Um, so you, and nothing afterwards. So there was no real longer lasting relationships. And although you went away with lots of great content, you probably didn’t go away with many connections. Um, so I thought, well, and the events themselves, where’s the opportunity to unleash, unleash your creativity? And this is going back to 2014, before on conferences in that type of format was a thing. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So there weren’t the, the only time you were in smaller groups was in breakouts, but that was just to be talked at. And on occasion you might have a workshop. So I spoke to 10, maybe 15 comms people, um, that I knew in my network.

Asif Choudry (13:30):

And I said, look, if we could do an event that where you could sit down and have lunch where you could be more creative, um, where we had speakers that were more relatable and it wasn’t in London and it didn’t cost 500 pounds, would you come? And 10 or 15 people said yes. And I thought, right, okay, we’re gonna do this. And then myself and our head of creative at the time on a, , training down to see a client, you know, we came up with the Brand com zero because I said, look what these guys have to do year on year, reducing budgets, reducing headcount, but increasing KPI targets. I said, it’s pretty heroic. And that’s where genuinely, that’s where the name came from. We went onto 1 2 3 or whatever it might have been. And the domain was available com The Twitter handle was available, nobody’d ever used a hashtag.

Asif Choudry (14:21):

And I thought, wow, this is, this is amazing. So we then sa sent us, saved the date for the 14th of, um, May, 2014. And we had eight weeks from that initial idea that, that kind of, that moment I’ve just described to delivering the event. At that point, we had no speakers, we had no delegates, we had a venue cause I’d committed and booked it on the date. I didn’t even know what, what it was. So we just said, right, we’re gonna do it. And then, um, eight weeks later we had 85 people. We had Grant Liba who was the keynote speaker, was amazing. We had visual minutes when they were just starting to become a thing. Um, we had people who were able to sit down for lunch and they weren’t being talked at because we put 15 minute breaks in between each session. Um, lots of time for networking.

Asif Choudry (15:15):

The hashtag was great. I think we had a over a million reach, um, in the first event, which was in Manchester on the 14th of May. Helen Reynolds was speaker there as well. And, and that’s genuinely where it all began. We, we set out to do this just as a one-off experiment and about four weeks in, , Edwina Ro Hart, who was I think the comms manager, head of comms at Community Housing Comy, but she was the lead for the C I P R Wales region said, look, we’re doing our, , kind of regular meeting in Reham on the 17th of June. Will you bring Comm’s Hero to Reham? And I said, I don’t even know what Comm’s Hero is genuinely, but yes. Um, , and I dunno how we were gonna do it, but we did the first event, we c created our blueprint, and then we went to Reham on the 17th of June.

Asif Choudry (16:08):

That kind of gave us the confidence that we sent events outside of London. We will do another one in October in Bristol. And we did another one in London in, , in the same month as well. So we did four in the first year from what was meant to be a one-off experiment. And, um, , nine years on, as you mentioned, Katie, we’re still going, but I said after the first one it would just be a one off. And each year I said, oh, I can’t, I can’t keep doing this because of the day job. Um, but it’s a brilliant part of the day job. It’s not a side hustle. It’s what I do. And I’ve got great support from the business and the team around me. So it’s not just myself. Um, it’s a massive shout out to all the people at Resource who’ve supported with the whole event and putting it on. And that includes going to buy however many crispy creams we needed is for delegates and stuff like that. All the stuff. We didn’t have an event management agency. We did it ourselves. Um, and it was just, it’s just great fun. So yeah, that’s where it began. And, um, and we’re still here, thankfully.

Katie Sandey (17:08):

Yeah. Amazing. And I went to my first in-person, which I think probably was the last one you did. It was, yeah. In person conference in 2019, I think it was. And I, you know, everything that you’ve said just really resonates because it, any ideas that I went in with about what a com, you know, what a, a good comms conference could be. It, it just, it blew my mind. It was incredible. And I came away and the, the main thing that I said to, to people when I got back to the office was, um, you know, it, everything in that, in that conference was relevant to me. I was engaged with all of it. I made some amazing, incredible connections. I, I remember we all connected on LinkedIn. I can’t remember what you did in the room, but we all went onto our phones and we all connected that’s right on LinkedIn.

Katie Sandey (17:49):

And so my LinkedIn connection’s rocketed and suddenly I had this network that I didn’t have before. So it, it, it really pushes the boundaries in the sense that, you know, you delivered something that probably is not what people associate with the Word conference. It’s really something quite special. Um, and something that, you know, I I think probably means a lot to people because it is something that’s so relevant to us and it’s something that is completely tailored for what we do, um, which is really good. So it’s been nine years, so we’re coming up for the 10th year then will there be a birthday party?

Asif Choudry (18:21):

Absolutely. It would be stupid and Remissive as not to do something excellent special for 2024. Um, if we’re still going, um, that will purely be dictated to buy, , as any good campaign or brand. If the customers, if there’s still a need for it, then you should keep delivering it. And, , I sincerely hope we are still there in 2024. And we’ll do, I keep saying, how do we top last year? How do we top last year? And we’ve just kept doing it year on year and I can’t wait to get back to in person when the people can literally dumb the comms hero Cape a mask, which from the first event to the last in-person one in 2019, it always amazes me that people are, nobody’s pushed to do that. Nobody’s forced to do it. But you yourself, Katie, have done that with, um Yep.

Asif Choudry (19:14):

Jemima Lawson as well with Gem. And it’s been, it’s amazing to see because that where all that started, it was, , um, I’m from Bradford and there’s a, a fantastic kind of place where you can buy materials called bomb based stores. The first event I went to Bombay stores, bought silk in different colors, got my friend’s mom to actually sew the capes together and bought the masks in. So, um, wow. <laugh> genuinely, that’s how we did it first time round. We, we’ve, we’ve upgraded now and we buy them from a fancy dress shop now if we need to do them. But it’s been brilliant to see people just that, that’s just, that’s, that’s the whole comms hero spirit in itself there, that people are willing to just unleash their inner comms hero quite literally. Um, and it just adds that bit of fun and creative element to people and just their opportunity to, um, get out of serious day-to-day business world and just let their creative side just go wherever it wants to go, where the best ideas come from.

Katie Sandey (20:13):

Absolutely. Definitely. And you can’t force creativity, can you? So I think if there is that sense that we’re actually having fun whil we’re doing all of this. Yeah, it really helps with that, I think. So you’ve kind of, I guess you’ve probably already answered this, but why do you love what you do?

Asif Choudry (20:27):

The reactions? I think that ultimately when you’re in, um, a client facing role, , if you don’t love the reactions that are created on the back of something you’ve done, and whether that’s completing a project on time, the feedback that you get, you’re in the wrong job. And I think as comms people, we are inherently those sorts of people that we create campaigns that require a level of engagement and KPIs to be hit. That’s the buzz you, you get from it. And if you don’t love the response or the engagement or the reactions you’re getting from people as a consequence of something that you are doing, then get out now. Because that’s ultimately what drives you to keep doing it. Because if it genuinely, with comms here, just like anything else, if it, if it fell on deaf ears, if we weren’t getting the numbers each year, um, and people weren’t continuing the conversation on social, then what’s the point doing it?

Asif Choudry (21:28):

You know, there’s always better things to do. And this is now part of the day job, but it’s a part of the day job that does take time and, and it’s important part commercially, I’ve got to weigh that up myself as well, you know, cause I’ve got a job to do, which is to, is to, you know, promote resource and attract clients and keep the ones that we’ve got and all the things that, you know, many people have to do. But you can’t fail to love it when you get genuinely every day. I’m surprised by people posting, like I say, posting a job on comms here or, um, whenever we send swag and we send it for whatever reason, we decide on that day, people posting it on social. And if you can’t get motivated by that, then there’s no better engagement. Is there early, to be honest with you, than people are, um, attending your events and contributing to the conversations posting about, , your business or your brand on social. It’s fantastic. So just keep doing it. Yeah. You know, that’s simple as that. Yeah,

Katie Sandey (22:25):

It’s great to have that buzz, isn’t it? When you, like you say, when you see people responding to something you’ve done and you see those reactions, it really motivates, doesn’t it? Um, I can definitely relate to that. Um, so as a creative then, um, what inspires you? Where do you get your ideas from?

Asif Choudry (22:42):

, God, , everywhere, to be honest with you. There’s, um, , I think probably when you are looking for them, there’s lots of, , talk about, you know, um, letting your mind just go wherever it wants to, which is where the creative ideas sit. But I’m surrounded by creative people, which I have been for pretty much most of my career. And I’ve, I’ve had the benefit, you know, it’s like imagine having an external agency, which most of the comms hero community, , , you know, work with as an external agency. But imagine having that in your business every day and you’re just surrounded by creative projects for different sizes of companies, different sectors, different budgets, some massive budgets to some ridiculous budgets. It’s one of those, you know, those posts on LinkedIn where it’s got a picture of a, um, a king and a lion and it’s, you know, client’s expectation.

Asif Choudry (23:43):

And then the next picture is a, a cat with a little boy. Um, and it’s, this is the budget, you know, we’ve had to work on those situations. And then so when you’re surrounded by people who are, who have to come up with ideas for a living, they’re brilliant at it. And where I’ve learned from those people over the years where they get their ideas from, i, I, I don’t know genuinely, but that’s what a great creative is that, um, when they’re scheduled for 16 hours, two days to come up with ideas and then it, they have nothing and then all of a sudden it arrives. I kind of learnt from being around those people. So I think those, those creative ideas have come from, um, testing things out on my, , you know, do the child test always works really well. A lot of our campaigns have gone through that, and if they get it, then oh, brilliant, that’s, we’ll, we’ll go ahead and we’ll, we’ll launch it.

Asif Choudry (24:37):

But I think those just walking a Sunday walk in the park with no headphones on, not listening to music or outrunning, um, or first thing in the morning when it’s really quiet, you know, that’s that bit of me time when in some cases I probably have too many ideas and I’m straight onto my notes app and I’ve gotta jot them down. Um, there’s, there’s tons of ideas that I’ve never seen the light of day, but there’s still on my notes app. And they might do eventually, but some come to the fore. Um, and that kind of inspiration, it’s continually, I think if you’re open to, , seeing what’s around you and being accepting of that, then I think you’ll find that inspiration is a genuinely everywhere. Just not, doesn’t just sit in within a creative agency. A lot of creative clients that we have that by created from us are very creative themselves, but they just don’t have the vehicle or the environment to be able to unleash that.

Asif Choudry (25:33):

And that’s probably one of the things why we created the conference format that we did. We allowed people to just be a bit freer with the thoughts. And it was a safe space to do it because you know what, we were all frustrated creatives, um, working within briefs and budgets and, um, political structures, um, business hierarchies. And this was a place that you weren’t gonna be frowned upon, um, by actually saying some of the things that you weren’t able to say or even sharing some of the ideas that I’ve never seen the light of day. Because at least you’ve got, you’re in a, an environment where you’re comfortable thinking that. So yeah, ideas that genuinely they come from anywhere.

Katie Sandey (26:14):

Mm-hmm. We’re all dying to see your notes app, by the way, now, now that you’ve referenced it, we want to see what that looks like as sp brainstorming <laugh>, um, <laugh>. No, that’s great. And I think that’s what’s great about Comms Hero, isn’t it? The fact that you can have that exchange of ideas in a safe environment, but also that, you know, we’ve all got the same frustrations, we’ve got the same challenges, um, and it’s how you overcome those. And it’s great that we can work within the <inaudible> community to, um, to, to work that out between us and to share ideas and to see how others have done, done things. So that really helps. Um, you’ve talked about your comms hero cape. Um, we, some of us will have capes if we’ve, , had free merch or if we’ve attended the, the in-person conferences. So when you put your cape on, what’s your comms superpower?

Asif Choudry (26:59):

Um, that’s great question. That one <laugh>. Um, I, I think it’s the consistency I’d say and showing up because, , I was listening to, um, , a podcast with John Evans, who is the Uncensored cmo, and it was a podcast on the marketing meet meetup, and he had 10 things, um, you would want to know if you were 25. And one of them was, um, kind of talking about staying power and consistency and showing up, which that I would say, you know, being on, you know, making sure there is a tweet on the com zero account every day for nine years is showing up, um, showing up for your community. And I say that because in that nine year period, um, I’ve been with resource for 21 years now, but you know, in that, in that period, I’ve seen lots of people come and go, you naturally do the longer period of time you’re doing something.

Asif Choudry (28:03):

But to remain consistent, um, is one thing, but to remain consistent with an audience, to be consistent for is another thing. So I think keeping people engaged and bringing, um, people to your community or bringing people to, to your beliefs and what you, what you stand for, um, I’d say that’s probably right up there because without that, I, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today com zero wouldn’t exist beyond a one-off experiment. It to be, it wouldn’t have even happened. Um, cuz it was just a natural progression in the 21 years of being here at resource that that’s ultimately why it’s there because we wanted to try something new, get us in front of different people and just do more for our customer base rather than just working on their campaigns. Can we do, can we actually, this was before B Corp and we were all encouraged to be a force for good and all the rest of it. Um, it didn’t have a label then. So I think, well, we’ve never done that because it was, um, good to be good. It’s just always been good to be good. And I don’t understand, you know, there’s a lot of obviously hype with B Corp and rightly so. Um, but I think a lot of businesses and organizations are inherently that type anyway. There’s just a badge for it now. But as I’d say it is that showing up and, and being consistent with that showing up. Mm-hmm.

Katie Sandey (29:23):

Yeah, absolutely. Um, and you know, one of the phrases that I took away from the conference that I attended, but also that one of my favorites that you use as a com hero strap line is nothing ever good comes from a comfort zone. And, you know, I, I think that’s really important. I think it is not being afraid to take those little risks and to try new things and to do things in a slightly different way, even if you do it bit by bit over time, that can make a huge difference. And I think that’s one of the things that I’ve definitely taken away. So for one of my superhero powers, I think probably I would say it is going out of that comfort zone and doing different things. So, well, you left

Asif Choudry (29:56):

It, there is the saying, , , at comm events that leave your comfort zone at the door and do not collect on your way out. So you left it now in 2019.

Katie Sandey (30:05):

K2 service, I think I actually did. Yeah, I think I really did <laugh>. Um, so a lot of, um, comms hero sessions previously, , um, and, you know, um, some of the podcasts and things talk a lot about mental health and wellbeing. Yeah. Um, you know, and how, you know, different relaxation techniques and avoiding burnout. And it feels like, you know, within Comm Zero, nothing seems impossible. It’s constantly changing and evolving. Um, but, you know, we all need to relax. We all work at a hundred miles an hour sometimes, you know, depending on the sector that we work. And we might be dealing with trolls or keyboard warriors, and that can be quite draining and it could be quite hard to keep up that kind of positive mindset when you’re dealing with, with all of that. So how do you relax and how do you avoid burnout?

Asif Choudry (30:49):

I don’t think anyone avoids burnout. I think it get comes to us all. Um, if it, sometimes it creeps up on you and smacks your bang in the face and you then, , suffering and reeling on the other end of it. But what I try and do is, um, you know, there isn’t any magic formula. I don’t, you know, religion’s a massive thing for me. And four years ago, five years ago, nearly, um, , when my father passed away, that kind of brought me closer to religion. And part of that religion is praying five times a day. So genuinely, I have five moments in the day spread out from dawn through til dusk that just help me to reset. , and it’s, it sounds weird, but basically people talk about meditating and yoga. I don’t go into a zen-like state or anything like that, but what it does, it gives you those natural breaks in the day, every day, seven days a week, five times a day, um, where you can fit them in.

Asif Choudry (31:50):

But that reset button is pressed throughout. And I think that’s made a big difference for me in ts of, don’t get me wrong, I still feel stressed sometimes. And, , having a young family, um, stuff like that, all the challenges that anybody and everybody has, , mine are no different, but I don’t think I have avoided burnout, but it’s, how much it’s affected me is probably the, I think it’s the grade of how much burnout. That’s probably what you need to focus on more rather than trying to avoid it. You know, I’m a rubbish sleeper, I’m a nap night owl, but I get up early as well at the same time, a recipe for, , disaster according to lots of sleep experts. But I try not to, I try to take the advice where I can do what I can, but, you know, um, , I’m not a, my body’s a temple type person or anything like that.

Asif Choudry (32:41):

I just do whatever I can to be honest with you. But I don’t put, I think the biggest thing is I don’t put a lot of pressure on having to, you know, I’d like to try and get eight hours sleep and I will always try and do that, but if I can’t sleep and I wanna watch tv, then I just, just let’s do it, you know? Mm-hmm. And, um, um, ironing and cutting the grass. Two great recipes for avoiding burnout. I think <laugh>, which I can listen to Podcast, podcast while I’m doing it, but genuinely, it, it, it works. So yeah, I, I would, I would say, um, religion’s a big part of that, and just the fact I can press that reset every day is a big, a big thing for me, um, , to do. Yeah.

Katie Sandey (33:21):

Yeah, absolutely. Good advice. So I guess the, the question that I kind of want to sort of wrap up, um, with, , a little bit is what does the future look like? Because Comms Hero has gone from strength to strength, um, even the pandemic presented new opportunities and has kind of paved the way for Comms Hero, um, and sort of where it’s going next. Um, you know, you’ve got your new, you’ve got your Comms hero ambassadors now. Yeah. Um, so what, you know, what’s next? What does the future look like?

Asif Choudry (33:53):

Well, I’d say that that, um, I was inspired about the Comms Zero Ambassador program through reading, um, on Purpose great book, which I’m still about three costs the way through. But in there it talked about, , Lego creating a community, , <inaudible>, um, adult fans of Lego. So these, this community was actively involved in coming up with the, kind of just giving new ideas to what products Lego should put together for the customers. I thought, how brilliant is that? So for nine years, having to come up with what are the themes, what do people want from Comms Hero, asking a few people. So, you know, I went about speaking to 15 people who thankfully all said yes when I approached them. And, um, , and it wasn’t just the first time that I’d approached them, they’d said Yes on, unlike other guests I’ve had on Comms Zero events, which taken a few years of persuasion, but this was quite instant.

Asif Choudry (34:54):

But they will help shape, um, what the Comms Zero Content is gonna be for zero a week, come up with 15 new slogans for our merch. But importantly, this year we’re going to do something that I’ve had in my mind for about four years, the com zero awards, and that will take place com. Zero week will happen again this year, just figuring out dates at the moment. So I’m thinking provisionally, it’s 17th to the 22nd of September, but we’ll have information on that coming out. And the middle day, the Wednesday of that week, it’s gonna be a virtual week, but the middle Wednesday, the, that’s going to be a hybrid day. So it’s gonna be in person, which is fantastic for us, you know, four years after the last event, in-person event that’s gonna be live streamed out to all the people who are attending virtually. We hope some of them will attend in person, Don the Capes on Masks.

Asif Choudry (35:50):

We’re also going to have the concert awards as part of that in-Person Day. And it’s gonna be the categories, the ambassadors, their first job, um, after the first meeting in February was to go away and come up with, , 10 categories for the awards, the ca and their, their brief and their remit was to come up with categories of the awards that you’ve never seen before. But you know, that comms and marketing people will have wanted to win. That’s the brief. So we’ve had some amazing ideas so far. So I’m super excited for what they’re gonna be coming up with. And they’re gonna be the judges as well. Nobody’s gonna be forced to buy tables of 10, it’s gonna be an hour within the day itself, and people are welcome to attend in person and, um, be part of the, the awards, but be part of the in-person day.

Asif Choudry (36:38):

So that’s like super exciting. And to finish the year off in 2023, those ambassadors will be, um, the ones who will choose the ambassadors for 2024. So I think that’s the next thing for Comms Hero. Now the community and members of it will actively be involved in what happened year on year. So it’s not just the resource or us to show, and our commitment to the community is to say, look, the best way for us to shape our content is to put you in the middle of it, and you help us to decide what’s what’s right for the community. So it’s a really exciting time because, but it just felt right, it was a natural thing for us to, to do. So yeah, there’s loads of good stuff, um, coming and um, yeah, so we’ll see how this year pans out.

Katie Sandey (37:22):

Sounds very exciting. Can’t wait to hear more about that. Awesome. Thank you. I think I’ve, um, I think hopefully I haven’t grilled you too much, but it’s been, , it’s been great. , you know, I’ve asked all of my burning questions, so hopefully I’ve represented the comms here community fairly well in ts of what they would put to you. Um, so we’ll see. We’ll see how they react. Maybe they’ll have more questions.

Asif Choudry (37:45):

<laugh>, if you, if you do, you can drop, you can drop them in. I’m happy to answer. But now you’ve mentioned about your, um, involvement in Comms Zero and you’ve, but I’ll ask you as I do on all the podcasts, um, and to the guests. So why is Comms Hero important to you, Katie, and would you recommend people working in comms of Marketing to be part of it?

Katie Sandey (38:08):

Um, I think personal and professional development is really, really important. And I think Comms Hero provides a platform for us to continually adapt and learn. We’re learning all the time, and like we said before, it’s a f often it’s a fun way to learn. You kind of, you’re not always aware that you’re doing it. And I think, you know, I work in the public sector and sometimes we haven’t got the money for training courses and we haven’t got the time. We’re all working at a hundred bars an hour and big priorities. Um, so it can feel like sometimes, um, you’re a bit restricted with what you can do in ts of your professional development. But actually Comm’s Hero has provided a platform for so many different ways for us to learn and for us to grow as individuals. Um, and so for me, that’s what I really value about it and I think it’s made that learning really accessible as well.

Katie Sandey (38:53):

So if I feel I haven’t got time in my working day to put time aside to those kind of learning opportunities, I know probably what I’ll do at the end of the day is go and walk the dog so I can just put my earphones in and I can listen to a podcast when I’m out walking the dog. And for me, that’s really good relaxing downtime, but I’m kind of learning things as I go along and I’ll go into the office the next day and I’ll say, oh, did you know this? Or did you, you know, and I’ll share that experience from that podcast with the team. So I think, you know, it’s making that continual learning easy and accessible for people. Um, and you know, the same with the, the virtual comms hero week. You know, a lot of us were still in crisis mode, um, because of the pandemic.

Katie Sandey (39:31):

So we didn’t necessarily have time to listen all to all the sessions live, but there was the option to listen to them and watch them again. So I think it’s just that flexibility, um, and how easy it is, like I say, to, to do that continual learning. Um, and like I said before, the fact that I think everybody’s got a contribution to make and everybody kind of shape continue to shape the, the comms community as it goes forward. So I would 100% recommend it and I do to people in comms and marketing. Um, I can’t imagine not being part of the community.

Asif Choudry (40:02):

No, thanks Katie. And, , , genuine. It’s, it’s heartwarming to, to hear that feedback from people who’ve enjoyed the community and benefit from it. And like you say, you know what, what keeps you going? It’s, it’s just feedback like that, you know, so really appreciate you sharing it. You mentioned when you were at the 2019 event, your LinkedIn followers went through the roof. So we’re gonna do that again and I always encourage our listeners to connect with the guests. So where will they find you, what the social handles?

Katie Sandey (40:28):

So on Twitter, at Katie Sandy, and on LinkedIn, Katie, Sandy,

Asif Choudry (40:33):

Nice and simple. So thank you for that. Simple,

Katie Sandey (40:36):


Asif Choudry (40:36):

Following and find out more about the community. So as this is a special podcast episode and it’s one for your team away day. Um, so it only seems right to give the, everyone in that team a name check. So Katie, tell us who they are.

Katie Sandey (40:53):

So the communications and marketing team for Chat number Council and chat CNU Home are Laura Newcomb, Jemima Lawson, Laura Carter, poppy Matthews, Maxine McGowen, James Clifton, and Ghan Evans. And just to say they don’t know I’m doing this, this is a surprise. So, um, hopefully I’ll keep it to myself. I’m not burst with excitement cause I’m dying to tell them <laugh>.

Asif Choudry (41:16):

Well, and when the podcast episode goes live, we’ll tag them in the, into the show notes so they can, um, search for their name on Spotify and it’ll pop up. , how good is that? Awesome. You know,

Katie Sandey (41:24):

Brilliant. Yeah.

Asif Choudry (41:26):

Um, you’ll find this podcast on Spotify, apple, , or your chosen platform, , also on our website com You can follow us on Twitter at com zero. If you do listen on Apple or Spotify, please leave a rating and review and hit the follow and subscribe buttons so you can get the new episodes, , automatically. And it’s every two weeks, um, that we schedule a new episode. So Katie, it’s been an absolute pleasure even though you’ve, , flipped the switch on me, but I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s a nice story to tell and I hope you’ve enjoyed it and the listeners have enjoyed, um, this episode of the podcast.

Katie Sandey (42:04):

Thank you. I love, I’ve loved it. It’s been a great opportunity and I appreciate you taking the time to, to allow us to turn the tables and ask you the questions as, thank you.