Abi Herbert on fast-paced and unpredictable comms

Abi Herbert on fast-paced and unpredictable comms
Abi Herbert, comms manager at Galop, the LGBT+ anti-abuse charity, joins us to chat about how doing everything right doesn't necessarily mean things will go as planned.

Why did you choose to pursue a role in communications? For example, has it always been your passion or was it pure happenstance?

Because I love to communicate! I’ve always been energised by others and will talk anybody’s ear off. Growing up, people around me always recommended communications as a sector in which they thought I’d thrive – and now I’m lucky enough to do what I love for a job.

What personal skills or attributes do you think are most important in the communications sphere? Why these skills/attributes in particular?

Creativity, curiosity and confidence. You can be taught the technicalities, learn how to bring your ideas to life and hone your writing skills, but I think if you’re naturally creative, curious or confident, it’ll make all the elements you do need to learn a bit easier.

What sort of challenges do you face in your role? Is there a particular challenge that you experienced in the past that stood out?

Communications is a very fast-paced industry and the news agenda can be very unforgiving. You could have invested thousands of pounds in a campaign, put in weeks of work, lined up everything perfectly, and then a big story could break and it’ll all come to nothing. You did everything right, but that’s the nature of the beast. There’s usually an opportunity to rejig and re-pitch so all is not always lost, but you need to be able to pivot.

What one thing would make your working life easier?

Ten of me! Communications is a bit of a bottomless pit – you could always be doing more, and it’s usually time and budget constraints that hold you back. I’ve worked with charities for a few years now and when it’s for a good cause, it’s particularly difficult to turn down opportunities and accept that you might not be able to do everything you want to.

How is the role of communications perceived in your organisation?

The comms team is very new at Galop so we’re still finding our feet, but we keep being told everyone is very excited we’re here which is hopefully a good sign! The work that the frontline teams do with LGBT+ victims and survivors of abuse is absolutely life-changing so to be able to shout about that is a real honour.

What do you think the secret of success is when working in communications?

Consuming media. When I was at the beginning of my career, I was rushed off my feet – writing, selling in stories, reporting. I rarely had the time to actually sit back and look at what was happening in the industries I was working in, and in the wider news in general, and that really set me back. When I did eventually find the time, my writing improved, I was formulating more creative ideas, and felt more confident talking to the press. Whether you delve into a news article, blog, tweet, podcast, Reddit thread – even if it’s not immediately obvious what, you will gain something from it.

At React & Share, we’re obsessed with helping our clients measure and report their efforts - what measurements do you think comms teams should be presenting to internal stakeholders?

Social media is definitely an area which should be driven by solid analytics – engagements, shares, reach – so we’re constantly testing and improving there. For press coverage, reach is really important for brand-building but also things like the size of the piece, the length of the quote, whether they’ve linked to the website, are all really important for measuring the impact it will have on our audience and their perception of us.

Looking into your crystal ball, what do you think will be the next big thing in communications?

NFTs! Francis Bourgeois!

No, I think it’ll be comms teams moving away from big budget campaigns, and spending time and money on reactive opportunities instead. During the pandemic I was working at an agency and we learned to stop trying to set the news agenda during such an unpredictable time and see how we could move with it instead, and my relationships with journalists have definitely improved since then. Find out how you can help save a journalist time using your expertise and contribute to an existing piece rather than popping up with something that might be really fun or interesting, but ultimately is probably not their focus at the moment.