Why did you choose to pursue a role in communications? For example, has it always been your passion or was it pure happenstance?
Since I was young, language and communications have always been where my skills lie. Plus, working for a charity was something I had always wanted to do. I had no idea that ‘communications’ was a thing until I started the job hunt, but it’s where I feel I’m able to do the most good for the world with the talents I have!
What personal skills or attributes do you think are most important in the communications sphere? Why these skills/attributes in particular?
There are many helpful attributes but, to be specific to the small charity life, I would highlight adaptability. It’s such a cliché but it’s true that no two days are ever the same, and it can be unpredictable. It’s important to be able to think on your feet, drop what you’re doing if necessary, re-prioritise and put a different ‘hat’ on for the day. If you get a buzz out of that sort of thing, communications is definitely for you.
What sort of challenges do you face in your role? Is there a particular challenge that you experienced in the past that stood out?
There’s always more you could do! As a communications professional you are reacting to an endless list of things: the news cycle, the lives of your media volunteers, government policy, social media trends, other charities’ output… and you are often doing it really quickly. This is where prioritisation and setting boundaries is very important. Knowing when it’s right to say ‘no’ means you can spend your time on the things that matter.
What one thing would make your working life easier?
I imagine most people who work for a small charity have the same answer to this and sadly that is resource. The pandemic hit our income hard at a time when we were looking to grow, but instead we were forced to adapt to the changing landscape. I’d love another me or two in the team so that we can reach more people with lifesaving health messages.
How is the role of communications perceived in your organisation?
Thankfully, communications is highly prioritised at my organisation. Our charity’s services offer a lifeline to many but, without communications, there would be no way to reach those people! We function a little like an agency, making sure that each team like Fundraising, Information and Services are able to tell our community and the wider public what they need to know. We help them to do this in the best way possible, and that means our value is made quite clear.
What do you think the secret of success is when working in communications?
It’s no secret, but empathy is key. You should always try to put yourself in the shoes of the audience of the particular thing you are working on and ask yourself… why would I carry on reading? Why does this matter to me? How does this impact my life? Getting to know your community as best you can helps no end with this. I’m lucky enough to work very closely with our media volunteers and hearing their powerful stories has made the world of difference to my communications.
Oh, and proof reading. Always!
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?
For me, while KPIs and measurements can definitely help you steer and shape campaigns, it’s qualitative feedback (especially the unsolicited!) which is the most crucial. Social listening, surveys, focus groups and user feedback are my go-tos for this. In my role, there’s absolutely nothing more satisfying than somebody letting you know that your piece of content helped them to feel less anxious, to know where to get support, or even to take action to reduce their risk of cervical cancer such as booking their cervical screening appointment. That’s huge!
Looking into your crystal ball, what do you think will be the next big thing in communications?
Unfortunately for me and my (tired) millennial friends, it’s TikTok. We know it deep down, we’re just in denial! Embracing the switch to video-first, though, is no bad thing. Get your ring lights ready.