Why did you choose to pursue a role in communications? For example, has it always been your passion or was it pure happenstance?
I studied French at Durham but struggled to find a position where I could use my languages. I went on to study Business Management at postgrad level and for my placement I worked in a marketing department at a local company. I loved it and soon after was lucky to gain my first job in Marketing – a rare find – Marketing Assistant no experience required for a logistics software firm.
What personal skills or attributes do you think are most important in the communications sphere? Why these skills/attributes in particular?
I think you need to be super resilient and be able to juggle a range of diverse projects at once. You need to stay calm under pressure and not be fazed by the last minute urgent requests that fly in from senior management. It helps if you are creative and have good writing skills, but most importantly I think you need to be have high level people skills so you have empathy with your customers and audience, and are also able to forge relationships with people across your organisation and in partner organisations, so that your voice is heard and your advice trusted.
What sort of challenges do you face in your role? Is there a particular challenge that you experienced in the past that stood out?
Budgets are always limited and every organisation wants more and more from fewer and fewer people. It just means you have to get tougher at saying “no” to projects and have clear objectives and priorities for your team that you can stick to. If it doesn’t meet our objectives, we’re not allocating resources to it. There’s also the “I know how to write, so I can do comms” or the “I like the logo you’ve designed but can I have it in purple with pink spots, my daughter did one like that and she’s doing graphic design at college” brigade that you’re up against – you learn to have a thick skin and smile sweetly.
What one thing would make your working life easier?
Getting Comms on the agenda at Board level and at team meetings, so we are there advising from the start, playing devil’s advocate where necessary and also so we can support teams deliver on their own objectives in a planned and strategic way.
How is the role of communications perceived in your organisation?
I think it’s valued a lot more now than a decade ago. Since the Housing White Paper, we are all very conscious that all our communications with customers are clear, offer two-way opportunities to feedback and reach a diverse range of audiences. Good communication, transparency and openness is more important than ever. I do think there’s a little bit of “Jane’s team is the one that does the leaflets and fluffy stuff”, but the more people can see how we can help them deliver their own projects or find solutions, the more they grasp the value of working with us in a timely fashion.
What do you think the secret of success is when working in communications?
I think it’s being able to build relationships and trust and also about understanding what the person might actually want, beyond the words they are actually saying. It’s about asking the right questions.
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?
Social media analytics for one, including shares, mentions, reach and engagement. Media coverage. Views, sentiment and clickthrough rates, but also simpler measures like have people understood the message we are trying to say, have they signed up to an event or viewed one of our properties.
Looking into your crystal ball, what do you think will be the next big thing in communications?
More and more emphasis on the user experience and customer journey, so we develop a real long-term relationship with customers who can interact with us more online and act as our brand advocates. I do think there will be some pushback on the high street though in places like banks where people will start to demand the return of a face to face conversation. It’s all about balance between technology, convenience and that irreplaceable human interaction.