Camilla Mankabady on the importance of storytelling, the challenge of social media, and advice to fresh communicators

Camilla Mankabady on the importance of storytelling, the challenge of social media, and advice to fresh communicators
Camilla Mankabady, communications director, shares her journey through journalism to public communications with React & Share.

We're proud to inaugurate this hopefully long-lasting string of interviews with communicators working in the field. We, like them, are deeply interested in content writing and storytelling. This series will investigate how they approach content improvement and what they think is the value of communications.

Here's our first interview with Camila Mankabady, communications director at Liverpool City Council.

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

For more than two decades, I have worked as a ‘story-teller’, first as a journalist in radio and TV newsrooms, and now as a Communications Director with press officers, marketing experts and designers. There is a natural progression between the two disciplines — the essence of any news announcement or policy change — is clear communication. I am very proud to be working in my home city of Liverpool, so when a new post of Communications Director for the city council was created, I jumped at the chance to apply.

2. What personal skills or attributes do you think are most important for a communications role? Why these skills/attributes in particular?

A strong communicator needs to be able to articulate a story clearly and succinctly, they need to ‘like’ people and really want to get ‘under-the-skin’ of an issue’. They also need to be flexible and realise that stories can happen at any time of day or night! Strong communicators need to be resilient and have the ability to empathise, but not become part of the story, always remain objective.

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

Social media is a fantastic, enabling platform for Communicators, but it of course also means that it is very tricky to ever switch off from comments, developments and scrutiny. The days of 9 – 5 working are long gone! As a result of easier access to audiences and stakeholders, there can often be a secondary challenge in that the specific skills and training that communicators have, can sometimes be overlooked.

4. How is the role of communications perceived in your organisation?

I am very lucky that my Chief Executive values and appreciates what my team and I bring. We have a place at the ‘top table’ and more importantly we have a voice that is allowed to help shape the narrative, where appropriate.

5. What advice would you give to those at the start of their career in communications?

If you are starting out on your comms journey my advice is to watch and learn. Look around at the campaigns that are out there, think about what you like, and what you don’t like. Talk to those who have worked in the field for longer than yourself — what top tips do they have? Which agencies or organisations do they admire? Absorb as many campaigns as possible and start understanding how trends and narratives help shape the advertising and marketing discourse.

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

The data never lies, so always check the analytics, you will know if your campaign is a success — or if your message has landed — by the numbers. What is the engagement like? Are people sharing your content? Are they talking about it? Are they clicking on your links? Are they buying your products? Has your campaign altered behaviour?

7. We at React & Share live for helping communications teams through understanding website content sentiment and improving it off the back of feedback. How do you and your team approach content improvement?

Daily team meetings allow us to story-board our content and discuss our key calls to action. We check the analytics to see which assets are getting traction, and which aren’t. We are honest and will change tack if we feel there is a sharper way of communicating. We also do a lot of social listening, it is really important to know what your audience are saying.