Alana Genge, communications manager at Health in Mind, shares her journey from finding herself in a comms internship to masterfully juggling tasks as a manager.
Why did you choose to pursue a role in communications? For example, has it always been your passion or was it pure happenstance?
I sort of fell into it. I studied law and criminology at University, once I graduated and started looking for a job, I didn't really know what I wanted to do. My first role out of university was a three-month Communications and Campaigns internship at a charity in London. I then went on to become their administrator.
I knew I wanted to do a masters so while working at the charity I studied Political Communications, Advocacy and Campaigning. After being at the charity for about a year they asked what I wanted to do. There wasn't a comms role in the organisation, so they created one for me. I've been working in charity comms ever since.
What personal skills or attributes do you think are most important in the communications sphere? Why these skills/attributes in particular?
You need to be:
Creative — And not just in terms of developing content and campaigns. But creative in your problem solving and the way that you work with people and partners.
A good juggler — One of the joys of working in comms is that the role is so varied. You need to be able to juggle deadlines, opinions, and people.
What sort of challenges do you face in your role? Is there a particular challenge that you experienced in the past that stood out?
One of the biggest challenges is balancing the things that need to be done against the things you want to do. If you can find a balance between the things that give you energy against the things that drain you then you're doing okay. We all need a mix in our days — it helps us to stay motivated and is good for our wellbeing.
What one thing would make your working life easier?
More hours in the day. As that's not possible, people meeting deadlines set would be a huge help!
How is the role of communications perceived in your organisation?
I've done lots of work internally around why comms is important, what we mean by comms, and what things sit with the comms team. I might be the comms manager but communication is part of everyone's role.
We've seen a positive shift around our comms in the last couple of years. I always make sure people are involved in our comms work be it staff, partners and the people accessing our services and resources. We've put in clear processes and guidelines internally and have received great feedback - it's about making an impact whilst at the same time making people's jobs easier. Externally it's about speaking with one trusted voice.
What do you think the secret of success is when working in communications?
I don't think it's a secret — it's about being kind, treating people with respect and having a passion for the cause you're shouting about.
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?
It depends on what you're working on. For us internally I always share measurements of reach/engagement with staff who develop website content or share stories on social media. It means they get to see that what they have done has made a difference. They want measurements that mean something to them — nothing fancy.
Looking into your crystal ball, what do you think will be the next big thing in communications?
I think people are going to tell us more about what they want and how they want it. We're going to need to be flexible and really listen.