Holly McAnoy on owning your mistakes

Holly McAnoy on owning your mistakes
Holly McAnoy checks in with us to chat about devolution, accessibility and the comms challenges faced within housing associations.

Holly McAnoy,​ PR & Communications Officer at Taff Housing, checks in with us to chat about devolution, accessibility and the comms challenges faced within housing associations. 


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


I was that person in school who thought they knew exactly what they wanted to do and how they would get there… but it wasn’t comms! I had always wanted to be a photographer and chose to study photography at uni where, in my third year, I coupled my passion for images and creative writing together and helped to build brand presence for charities and start-up businesses. After graduating, I moved back home and began feeling incredibly frustrated in my zero-hour cleaning job as I really missed being creative, so I began searching for the perfect opportunity to explore photo, digital and writing together. Pretty quickly I found a graduate role, for a year, in a small housing association in Cardiff… I applied, re-located and I haven’t looked back! 


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


The best thing about comms is that because the world is always changing there will never be the ‘perfect’ skill set and there will always be lots to learn. For me, two things underpin everything which are; 1…Never assume anything! The ability to look past a point in comms helps you to create the best content, consider every type of stakeholder and will help you plan and prepare for any possible upset. If you have the ability to think in detail about every possible situation then you will go far.  And 2… I know this is a little bit of a cliche but also remember that it is also okay to make mistakes and it is okay to have different opinions to your peers. Own it… that’s what makes you human! 


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 are lots of challenges, but at Taff, we’re ambitious and not afraid to tackle those challenges head-on, as a team. The external environment will always be a challenge, especially for the housing sector, but this is a challenge out of our control.

One project really stands out to me personally though. We made the decision two years ago that our language was not accessible and worked on changing that. It was hugely challenging due to the sheer volume of teams and materials we had to cover but we’re almost there now. This project has been one of the hardest and most rewarding things I have ever done. I honestly could talk your ears off about it… it all started with one letter but it led to a new brand, website, and set of values along the way (just to name a few) and now Taff are creating consistent communications that are reaching more people than ever. Will this project ever stop though? I don’t think so, and I don’t want it to either because there’s always a way to do more and be better for our tenants and our colleagues. 


What one thing would make your working life easier?


That’s a great question! I’ll keep it light… but I really wish the UK Government and English Media would take the time to properly understand devolution and its impact. It is such a challenge to always need to manage frequent misinformation or whether something applies to the UK as a whole or each independent home country. 


How is the role of communications perceived in your organisation? 


Comms at Taff has changed so much in the last couple of years. We’ve grown from a team of one to a team of two and have the autonomy to support and explore new ideas freely.

The level of trust and ambition has helped comms to be a part of some pretty big and exciting projects. The best thing for me is that we’re never an afterthought.. more often than not we’re involved from the very beginning which helps us to share success, or learning easily, but also be transparent with colleagues and create links to ensure the right people are in the room from the start.  


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


It might sound silly, but learning that it’s okay to ask ‘why?’ is the best thing you can do! Really taking the time to understand the whole picture, or reasoning for something will not only help you get your messaging spot on and enable creativity… but it will give you confidence too. And always remember to talk to people as people… no matter what it is you’re trying to say.


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?


Measurement should never be just numbers. It’ll be different for every organisation, but the importance of reporting the social impact on your communications is often overlooked. How did that make a group of people feel? What could be learnt from that?  Is that why we had high/low engagement?
What was the external environment like and did this have an impact? All of these things can never be proven by a number on a spreadsheet but they are the most important part of comms.


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


With the introduction of affordable AI and other smart technologies, there are unlimited creative opportunities as comms will become universally more accessible. However, with that comes the needs for all other forms of communication to be equally accessible so I think we’ll see a shift in how we’re communicated with, and some big conversations around digital inclusion.