Volunteering and sharing your comms skills can be rewarding

Damian Vizard is a Strategic Communications Business Partner at Tai Calon Community Housing in Wales. Damian is a communications and marketing professional with over a decade of experience working in the Housing Sector and a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR). He is passionate about change communication and is a visual communications expert. Before moving into the world of Housing, Damian ran his own business for three years, offering multimedia solutions. He is a Husband, a Dad of two, a drummer, a retro gaming nerd and an amateur barber.

It feels good to give something back, and as Comms practitioners, we have many transferable skills that can help other organisations. Volunteering your time can not only give you a warm feeling inside but also offer you an insight into how different sectors operate, as well as helping you to grow your professional connections.

Damian Vizard

Strategic Communications Business Partner

Podcast questions:

  1. What made you volunteer?
  2. Does volunteering for groups take up much time?
  3. When is a good time in your career to volunteer?
  4. Why volunteer in the first place?
  5. What advice would you give to somebody thinking of volunteering their time and skills?

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 (00:12):

Hello and welcome to a new episode of the you’re my CommsHero podcast. And I’m your host, Asif Choudry. Today my guest is Damian Vizard, who is strategic communications business partner at Tai Calon Community Housing in Wales. Damian is a communications and marketing professional with over a decade of experience working in the housing sector and a member of the C I P R Chartered Institute of Public Relations. He’s a, he’s passionate about change communication and is a visual communications expert. Before moving into the world of housing, Damian ran his own business for three years offering multimedia solutions. He’s a husband, a dad of two, a drummer, a retro gaming nerd, and an amateur barber. Uh, so Damian, it’s a pleasure to welcome you on the podcast.

Damian Vizard (01:01):

Oh, thank you so much for having me. I’m so, so pleased to be here.

Asif Choudry (01:04):

And, um, for our listeners who don’t know, Damian, you are, um, one our first core of comm Ambassadors, aren’t you? You’re on that, uh, you’re on that panel as well as recently being, um, carbon literate certified through the CommsHero network as well. So you’re very much a, a CommsHero, super fan and very much a, a part of the community.

Damian Vizard (01:28):

I, I definitely class myself as a bit of a CommsHero fanboy, and it was such a privilege to be, uh, you know, to be on, to be on that, that first color cohort of CommsHero ambassadors. Yeah, there’s lots of, if I could have a CommsHero tattoo, I probably would.

Asif Choudry (01:41):

<laugh>. Oh, I’m, I’m honored. I’m honored. So let’s do some getting to know you stuff then, Damian. So I’ve got some quick five questions. So what’s the most place played song on your playlist?

Damian Vizard (01:55):

Um, Aton a ton Higher by Marvin Gaye and then and Tammy Crow. Good

Asif Choudry (01:59):

Track. Yeah, good track. It’s

Damian Vizard (02:02):


Asif Choudry (02:03):

A playlist. What is it about that one? Yeah,

Damian Vizard (02:06):

But I’ve got a playlist called, um, positive Vibes and in that, that is, that is one of the songs, but it, the kids just love it in the car and things and we just sort of have it on repeat, you know,

Asif Choudry (02:16):

You’ll have to share that on socials and let everyone join in the inspiration and get onto your playlist as well. So, so I like that. Love that track. So, um, which famous person would you invite to dinner and why? Uh,

Damian Vizard (02:29):

I struggled with this one and I was thinking can I, can I have, can I ask more than one? But you said can only have one. So I’m gonna go for David Goggins. So he’s, um, an ex Navy Seal. He’s like an ultra marathon, um, athlete and things. And I think he’s, he’s gone through every hell week, the US kind of military have, you know, right. He’s got a book called You Can’t Hurt Me. And, uh, in there he’s on like, taking souls, you know, like how relentless can’t, you can’t stop saying relentless. And I just think for me, you know, working in comms <laugh>, I, I could just sort of relate to that and listening, listening to some of his podcasts and speeches and, and his reading, his books and things. I’m just thinking yeah, I’m, it just helps me sort of, uh, you know, go through my daily sort of, uh, career really. Cuz I think in comms you need to be relentless sometimes, you know, banging that drum, how important It’s I’d agree with that.

Asif Choudry (03:22):

I’d agree with that. So yeah, what a great, I don’t know, never heard of him before, but I will look him up. Definitely. That might, that’ll add that book to my TBR list. Uh, and, uh, and or, or even Audible might have, might be one to listen to that one. So, uh, excellent. So that’s a new one on me. So, and finally then Damian, three words to describe you.

Damian Vizard (03:45):

Multitasker, um, adapter, uh, inquisitive.

Asif Choudry (03:51):

Okay, great. Right then. So do you wanna give us an example of, uh, um, cuz you know, there’s popular misconception that men can’t multitask, so tell us a bit more about that one.

Damian Vizard (04:01):

Yeah, so that’s a kinda very loose sort of multitasking. So I, I’ve probably got like undiagnosed A D h ADHD or something Right. But I tend to start many tasks and I think that’s really handy in comms anyway cuz we need to split spin lots of plates at the same time. Cause nothing lands true. You know, nothing starts end to finish in one go. Yeah. Um, so I, I, you know, it does help in comms, but I, I do tend to start things and then move on to something else at the same time. I’ll have multiple tabs open in my, on my laptop, multiple programs. I’ll have like sort of Photoshop open, I’ll have word open, I’ll be doing a bit of press release and I’ll jump back into Photoshop. Yeah. It’s not that I get bored, it’s just I’ll get distracted by that thing, I guess. Yeah. So sort of multitasking then a loose weight, you know, not always a good way I guess, but it, I think it’s good to be aware of it as well, isn’t it? Yeah. That’s

Asif Choudry (04:49):

Working for you isn’t it? It’s working for you. That’s the main thing. Yeah. So that’s great. No, appreciate you, uh, uh, sharing some of that insight and I hope the listeners, I know I have enjoyed getting to know a little bit more about you, but we’re here today to talk about, uh, volunteering and sharing your comm skills can be very rewarding and it feels good to give something back. And as comms practitioners, we have many transferable skills that can help other organizations. And volunteering your time can not only give you a warm feeling inside, but also offer an insight into how different sectors operate, as well as helping you to grow your professional connections and volunteering something you are huge about. So you’re in a great position to be able to, um, help share your knowledge and inspire myself and other listeners. So I’m gonna, uh, I’m gonna kick off with the first question for you, Damian here. So what made you volunteer in the first place?

Damian Vizard (05:39):

My first volunteering role, I didn’t really, it was something I had in my mind. I thought I, I’d love to have a go at. Um, this is for, uh, the, um, committee housing cam. They are a kind of our umbrella body in Wales for social housing. And, and they have a, um, comms strategic, uh, delivery group. Um, and it’s something I thought about, you know, I’d like, like to be a part of. And I thought, oh, REMS, is that gonna take a lot of time? And um, Jane Roth, who, who now is the chair of the group, uh, she contacted me and said, Damian, I’d like you to, to put your, put your name forward via your hat, um, your name in the hat to, to become vice chair. I said, Jane, is that gonna take a lot of time? Um, and she said, no, no, it should be fine and you’ll enjoy it and, and grow and things.

Damian Vizard (06:22):

So I did it and it, it was, it was brilliant. You know, it’s not, um, it doesn’t take a lot of time up really. Um, but it’s, it wasn’t something I initially, uh, thought so I thought of doing, but not, um, I was worried about did I have enough time, you know, and that always held me back. But that rolled onto other things where, um, I think at the same time I, I wanted to, to become a, a board member of our local, um, community radio station. Um, cause I’m ma massive fan of music, very passionate about that. And I wanted to kind of still keep my hand in. I sort of semi-retired as a drummer, so I still wanted to sort of do something with, with the music industry and things. So I thought helping the local, um, community radio station would, would, would be a thing. And, um, that, that was something i I was really passionate about, uh,

Asif Choudry (07:15):

Doing. Brilliant. And do you think then, does volunteering for groups, does it take up much, much time for people who want to do it?

Damian Vizard (07:23):

It, it depends on, on the groups I guess you’re involved with. But with, um, with my role as a board member with, with the community radio station, um, it tends to be about an hour, hour a week. Um, and there’s some of the side tasks that I’ve, I’ve helped with. I’ve helped with, um, sort of their marketing and things and, and I’ve designed some t-shirts and things for them and that, that sort of stuff. Um, for, um, for other groups. I mean, it could, it could take longer depending on what tasks, you know, you you need to do. But it may not, may may not be any more than an hour, you know, just meeting with, you know, meeting with um, a board or, or volunteering in that way and discussing just, just using your skills, you know, as a comm practitioner. Yeah. As we’ve got lots of transferable skills, um, yeah. That these groups, um, you know, really need really, you know.

Asif Choudry (08:07):

Yeah. And that’s good to know actually, because I think that you see lots of stuff on socials about volunteering and it’s uh, um, volunteering days that have been, uh, offered through their employers and, uh, people are out for a whole day doing thing that probably is a misconception. And you’ve, it, it’s really nice that you suggested there an hour volunteering is volunteering. And I think it’s not the quantity of this, um, you know, one hour spent, give, spent, giving those skills is something that, uh, that time for that organization itself, a, it’s gonna save them some money. Uh, and b they’ve genuinely got somebody on board who ha has a, a committed and a passionate interest in what they’re trying to do as an organization. And I don’t think, um, it gets any better cuz you’re not having to recruit somebody in, they’re actually coming to you and wanting to do it, uh, and wanting to do it for no cost. You know, it’s a really nice thing to be able to do. So I can see where, um, the appeal to that and it’s nice to know that, you know, uh, an hour is still classed as volunteering because I, I, I definitely would’ve thought it’s gonna be a, a much bigger, a bigger thing. You know, you could do a zoom call with somebody for 20 minutes and it’s still, you’re giving up your time, aren’t you to help somebody. So it’s, it’s nice to know that. So, well

Damian Vizard (09:25):

Often the often charity organizations, they don’t really have the kinda skills and things because they don’t Yeah. Cause they’re not paying for board members and not paying for, you know, people to come volunteer and things. Um, and, and like I said, they, they tend to be run by volunteers so that, so our uh, community radio station is, is Ram is managed by, um, Steve’s an ex mechanic, you know, um Right. But he’s passionate about community radio and, and yeah, know the knowledge he’s got is brilliant and he’s sort of learned it over the years. But, but he would argue, he would say himself, he’s not a marketeer or, or a comms person. Yeah. So, so I’m able to go there with that kind of hat on and un offer that kind of viewpoint. And again, sort of we working with this, you know, different organizations, um, which have different ways of working and different challenges.

Damian Vizard (10:06):

And that, that was one of the other reasons what it sort of attracted me to, to the community radio station is that I, I could sort of flex sort of my knowledge around marketing and things, which I can’t really do in my Yeah. My role, um, in social housing. Cause we don’t really sell a product. We, we have a, we have a brand we market, we don’t necessarily sell things. And in the community radio station they, they do need to sort of, um, self advertising and things like that to keep them running. That generat sort of keep going with the volunteers.

Asif Choudry (10:33):

Yeah. Excellent. That’s great that, so, you know, and also probably another potential misconception is that volunteering something you have to, or, or you can only do when you’ve amassed years’ worth of experience. So when there’s a, when is a good time in your career to volunteer then Damian?

Damian Vizard (10:52):

I, yeah, I, I totally agree with that cuz that’s exactly how I thought. I thought I needed to amass some like 30 years of experience and all these qualifications and, and all this sort of thing. And to be honest, I, I think anybody, if they’ve got spare time and, and a passion for an organization, they should, they should approach them and ask can they volunteer or join their board? Um, and that type of thing because, you know, we’ve all got, you know, transferable skills as comms practitioners that can help, um, all sorts of organizations that that just need, um, you know, maybe a bit of direction in terms of comms and comms such a, such an important thing to be at, at a kinda of a board level really. Um, yeah. Cause communication is so important. That’s good. But, uh, that’s good. There’s, there’s no better time than now, really. Yeah, I would say.

Asif Choudry (11:34):

Yeah. So it’s in, you know, hopefully this listeners are inspired to, um, not wait for 30 years before they offer up their skills and expertise because you could have been in post for six months or a year and you’ve got some expertise that would benefit, um, a number of organizations and we’re talking specifically comm skills. So that’s nice to hear and it’s good and I hope that’s encouraged. The

Damian Vizard (11:55):

Thing is, I think as well, if people really haven’t got, um, if, if they haven’t got that, that those years of experience as well, they may be asking some, some critical questions Yeah. Because they don’t understand. And maybe that also may open up some discussion on boards and things where you’ve got somebody going, well actually what does that mean? You know? Yeah. Or why do we do it that way? You know, why can’t we do it another way? So that critical thinking or critical questioning is really important at that level too.

Asif Choudry (12:18):

Certainly. So this, the, probably the another element there is that you can gain some very different perspectives to help your own marketing, comms, pr, career and skillset by putting yourself in an environment that you wouldn’t ordinarily have gone into as part of your profession. Cause it’s not a job that you’ve applied for. Um, and it, you know, so that’s not going to be of any detriment because there’s probably some things that you can bring back into your day to day work, um, workplace that will benefit or even the questions that you would ask to, to colleagues and more senior managers who might have that knowledge. So you’re bringing other people’s experience and knowledge. So somebody might be in your team who’s got 30 years your leader, your line manager, um, where they’re in effect that giving their experience, but they’re not doing the actual volunteering part themselves. They’re not spending an hour or two or three hours in the other organizations, but they’re still, so you can, you’ve kind of got that you’re expanding that volunteer network almost, um, by, uh, that individual going back into the organization and tapping into the expertise then. So we’ve, we’ve talked, there’s quite a number of things there that, you know, hopefully have inspired people to go and look for volunteering. But why do you think then, why should people volunteer in the first place at all?

Damian Vizard (13:41):

I, as, as I said, I think there’s, as cost practitioners, we’ve got lots of transferable skills. You know, we can offer organizations, uh, certainly charities and, and that type of thing. Um, and especially if you’re passionate about a particular cause or something that really helps as well. Like I said, I, I’m, I’m passionate about music and, and, and then for me was really, you know, the community radio station and things. Um, but I think, you know, there, there’s so much, um, you know, people, people can offer. So it, it’s, I I would say just, you know, look around actually if you look on LinkedIn, um, you look for board member, uh, places and um, and, and, and, um, and roles you can actually, uh, yeah, find quite a lot on there actually for, for different organizations, you know, um, some are paid actually as well, you know, some are paid, some are not.

Damian Vizard (14:26):

So it, it all depends on the kind of organ organization really and things. But, um, yeah, if you’re passionate about Pacific cause or, or or organization, um, it’s probably worth approaching them and, and asking, you know, do they have any space on on their board or, or would they like, you know, you to volunteer their time. You know, cuz cuz like I said, there’s lots of transferable skills that all college practitioners have where this help social media and that type of thing. So I’ve, you know, I’ve helped other organizations in the past, um, small businesses and things, um, with their social media cuz cuz they just don’t understand it. Um, we had a, it was a, a local building firm with us. You know, they, they, they, they’re great at building houses and walls and things, but they’re not great on their social media. So, uh, and they website. So I, I helped them, I volunteered a little bit of time with them really just to help them out because they, they just didn’t really understand it. So, but we, but we just, we just go about our day job, you know, and we just, we got all this skills that we could be helping other organizations with.

Asif Choudry (15:22):

Yeah. And that’s very true that, so I think you’ve certainly given a a, a very different perspective on volunteering, certainly for me personally, in terms of, it doesn’t have to be as structured and you can go and proactively go to places to go. And so what advice then would you give to somebody that’s thinking of volunteering their time and skills to an organization?

Damian Vizard (15:42):

I, I would say, um, you know, I understand you, you’re gonna have to give up an hour of your time probably once a month, um, or maybe a little bit more. So, so, you know, so maybe if you’ve got little, little ones, you know, maybe you need to think about when, when’s a good time when you got that kinda spare time when the, when they’re not so little perhaps. But, um, so yeah, apart from the actual, the the time I, I I’d say just, you know, find the organization you’re passionate about, find, um, the industry maybe you’re interested in or you’d like to expand your knowledge about as well. Cause that’s the other thing when, when you sort of join other organization’s boards, you may get a perspective into, into a different, um, industry that, that you never knew. You know? Um, so, so so that, that, that might help even for people who are looking to progress their career or even network as well, you know, in terms of, you know, find other people to sort of work with going forward.

Asif Choudry (16:34):

Yeah. And would you say then for, for line managers and leaders who aren’t necessarily going to do the volunteering but potentially of being approached by um, people in their teams at more junior levels or any level for that matter and there isn’t a volunteering program, how can they create an environment for those colleagues to actually be able to be comfortable and there’s a safe space for them to approach the leaders to say, look, there’s an organization here. Cause there’s a whole social value piece for the organization itself, isn’t it? Do you think that, do you think the leadership teams are aware of that’s the, that’s a fantastic benefit to the organization and encouraging the individuals to do that where there isn’t a volunteering program in place? Cause that isn’t commonplace in every organization.

Damian Vizard (17:21):

No, I, I was very lucky cuz when I pro approached, um, my boss and I said, you know, I’m thinking about volunteering for our local, um, our local community radio station. You know, I think it could be a great benefit cause there’s something, obviously there’s some synergy between what we do as a, as a housing association and what they’re looking to achieve. Cause they, they work with volunteers and, and people in the community and things as well. Yeah. Um, she, she said, yeah, great, go for it. And she’s been really supportive, um, through, through all through, you know, uh, all that type, all my connection there. And also with, with with CommsHero as well. When, when, when I, I said to her, you know, um, I was approached to be a CommsHero ambassador. She’s like, great, that’s brilliant. Cause I think when you, when you work with other organizations, you get different perspectives Yeah. Of, of how things work. Um, and then you make those connections and you think, oh great, okay, maybe we should bring that back to our organization and, and try that. And I’ve done that many times, you know?

Asif Choudry (18:14):

Amazing. Can we give a shout out for your boss then? I think it’s worthwhile.

Damian Vizard (18:19):

Yeah. Al Elliot, thank you so much for, for allowing me the, the space and time to go in to go volunteer with other organizations and bring that knowledge back and then, then being really enthusiastic about it and implement it in, in our organization. Absolutely. Cause that tends to be what I do

Asif Choudry (18:33):

<laugh> Well, when, when, when this episode goes live, you can, you know, um, make sure Elliot listens to that and thank you Elliot for, for giving Damian the, um, time to do the volunteering but also get involved in Comm Zero as well. We, you know, it’s appreciated. So going on to, you’re here because you’re part of the Comm Zero community. You’ve talked about being an ambassador. You’ve done the carbon literacy training that we kicked off this year. So, you know, Damon, just share for the listeners, why is Comm Zero important to you and what you recommend people working in comms, marketing and PR to be part of it?

Damian Vizard (19:08):

I, I love the CommsHero community, you know, cuz um, not everybody can know everything, but you can know a lot of people which know a lot of things. And I think in, in the CommsHero community, there’s a lot of people who know a lot of things and we’re all different stages of our careers or, or organizations at different stages. And you can just lean on people and sort of just nudge ’em and say, oh, can I, can I borrow this? You know, uh, this information off you or you know, can you put me in the right direction? And that’s what I love about the community and it’s all very kind of lighthearted and everybody’s kind of, you know, uh, you know, on social media, you know, everybody’s really great to tag people in and, and have a bit of a joke and a bit of a laugh and things cuz comms can be really serious and can be really, you know, can sort of grind you down, you know, on, on the day job things. So we all gonna sort of pick each other up, which is, which is really great.

Damian Vizard (19:55):

And I, I’d definitely recommend, you know, anybody working in comms, anybody who working in marketing, even if, if you’re a, a creative person as well who’s, who’s sort of a graphic designer and things I think you could benefit, you know, for being part of the comms community. Um, because obviously there’s a lot of transferable skills there, you know, that you need to be able to communicate well as a sort of a graphic designer, you know? So, and, and there’s lots of, uh, stuff that’s been discussed at comms here. I think, um, our our graphic designer, uh, Sophie, she thought that was brilliant, you know? Yeah. And, and that’s really informed the way what she does, you know, going forward.

Asif Choudry (20:26):

Brilliant. No, no, thank you for sharing that. And it’s really good that the community is delivering and that, that kind of networking and the sharing of best practice, all that stuff, it’s, you know, over that nine year period that we’ve been going so far has definitely been the core theme of when people are asked that question that they come backwards. So, Damian, thanks for, uh, what’s been a great interview and, uh, I’m sure the content listeners will enjoy that. And lots of, um, popular misconceptions for me personally have been dispelled on volunteering. And I hope that that’s been the same case, uh, for listeners. And, um, they’re inspired to do the volunteering themselves, but if they want to find out more what’s important, you know, I, I’d love for people to connect with you. So how can they do that? Where will they find you?

Damian Vizard (21:10):

They can, uh, they can find me on Twitter. I’m quite sort of active on Twitter and LinkedIn. I do have an Instagram, but I, I don’t really post very much on there really to be honest. I’m more just, uh, very kind of just, just, I just watch other accounts really <laugh> and just follow lots of music, music things. But if you want, if you wanna connect with me, it’s Twitter and LinkedIn.

Asif Choudry (21:30):

Excellent. And we’ll share the links in the show notes anyway. So, um, so you’ll find this podcast on Spotify, apple and your chosen platform and on our website com zero.com. You can follow us on Twitter at com zero. If you do listen on Apple or Spotify, please leave a rating and review. Hit the follow and subscribe button as well so you can get the new episodes that are every two weeks now. Um, so, uh, Damian, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much for giving up even more of your time, the community, and I’m sure the listeners are gonna enjoy this one.

Damian Vizard (22:03):

Thank you so much for having me.