Jamie Body, digital content manager for Rose Bruford College, chats with us about comms life in a university. Read on for his thoughts on starting out, multitasking, and not getting burned out.
Why did you choose to pursue a role in communications?
For me, communication is storytelling. I come from a performance background, and when I wanted to pivot my career, communication and media was the perfect fit. It's storytelling, getting across the brand's voice, values and content authentically and having a conversation with your ideal client.
Communications include marketing, website building and maintenance, copywriting, social media, e-mail marketing, networking and events, and those are just a few of the many hats you have to wear.
It is a role that ticked the all boxes for me; it allowed me to continue to be creative, perform to an audience with the content you produce and stories you tell and combined many of the existing skills that I had learnt along the way.
What personal skills or attributes do you think are most important for a communications role? Why these skills/attributes in particular?
Comms can be a pretty nonstop role as so many job functions fall into it. It would help if you were organised and have good time management but with that being said, have a level of flexibility so you can be reactive to new trends or news that could affect your communication and content you are putting out.
You need to think strategically, be a good problem solver, and make sure you take time to read the room. What I mean by that is looking at what is going on in the world, what your ideal clients need, etc., so you can do right by your brand and values and fulfill your audience's needs or wants. Social media and comms often extend beyond the typical 9 to 5; after all, it is 'social' media. You need mechanisms to help with this, whether that is scheduling posts, having a system for overtime or time off in lieu — you want to avoid burnout and being overworked.
What sort of challenges do you face in your role? Is there a particular challenge that you experienced in the past that stood out?
Working at a university, there are many stakeholders and ideal clients. Having worked both agency-side and in-house at many companies, I was surprised by how many stakeholders there were. A challenge that I enjoy is making sure we share everything equally because it means I have to set up conversations and capture content for all of our stakeholders.
Looking at what to promote and showcase, not only regarding the courses but also student services & welfare, the campus, the alumni, the research, the faculty while also looking at student recruitment.
My week consists of organic and paid social media, content creation, website maintenance and reporting, e-mail marketing, line managing, and training staff and student ambassadors, show promotion, research on trends and news, etc. This means I have to be on my game all the time. I love this though, the variety it provides and the fact I get to work with so many different staff members across several departments.
How is the role of communications perceived in your organisation?
Increasingly the role of communications and marketing is seen as a useful tool to showcase what we offer. Giving a digital platform to our creative courses. The dreaded 'c' word, COVID-19, has meant we have had to take some aspects of our courses and performances online. This has allowed us to strengthen the working relationships we have with academics and students. We work very closely with most departments across the university, which allows us to collaborate and offer a 360 approach to everything we offer.
What advice would you give to those at the start of their career in communications?
If you are new to comms, build a portfolio. Student newspaper articles, social media accounts you have run, events you have hosted; do you have a blog or YouTube channel? As mentioned above, a role in communication is varied and is made up of many skills — what skills do you already have and what experience can you get to show this?
Be a yes person until you can say no. This is especially key if you work freelance in social media and comms. Build up your network and experience but don't burn yourself out; it is OK to say no to jobs that you don't have the capacity to do or are not a good fit for your values and skills.
Lastly, ask questions. Have a passion for learning and offering solutions. Is there something you want to learn how to do or a course you can go on, if you are at an entry-level role and have finished your workload, ask for some more responsibility.
What do you think the secret of success is when working in communications?
Relationships. Working relationships with your colleagues and employer, relationships with your clients and audience, and relationships with industry contacts and experts. Research who you are working for or who you want to work for, find out about their audience or their avatar so you can capture their brand and tone correctly or pitch yourself effectively at the interview.
This also goes for making sure that you communicate effectively and efficiently to your team and peers so that you can work at your optimum. It's called communications for a reason!
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?
Learn from the data and be authentic. Why did a post or story work or not work as well? What results/metric can you look at to help steer your next piece of content? Look at the analytics of your audience and the online sentiment. If something didn't work, learn from it and try not to walk away with your tail between your legs.