Jules Loveland, Communications Manager at Dementia Adventure, sits down with us to delve into her top three attributes for comms professionals. Read on to find out more about the importance of listening, self-awareness and being willing to learn.
Why did you choose to pursue a role in communications? For example, has it always
been your passion or was it pure happenstance?
It was a bit of both! I always loved English at school - and because of my fascination with people, I wanted to tell stories that make an impact. I hoped to be a journalist, so I studied Communications and Media Studies at college. However, I actually started my career in TV production and segued into website project management, which meant honing my writing skills for digital and it just kinda developed from there. So, I do get to tell stories, but I do a lot more too!
What personal skills or attributes do you think are most important in the communications sphere? Why these skills/attributes in particular?
There’s a few, but the top of my list would be listening, self-awareness and a willingness to learn.
Listening: If we’re to tell stories, meet needs, or influence for change, we need to be great listeners. We need to hear the message and not just the words - with genuine empathy and understanding. It stops us from turning people into projects!
Self Awareness: Emotional intelligence is everything. If you’re not aware of who you are, how you respond, what you’re like to be around, you’re going to struggle in a team. You need to have a language for emotion, a way to process in a healthy way, and an ability to see things from other people’s perspectives and grow.
Willingness to Learn: Comms moves fast! We need to be self-starters, quick to adapt and able to teach ourselves new skills. If we want things to be ‘the way we’ve always done them’, we’re going to get left behind.
What sort of challenges do you face in your role? Is there a particular challenge that you experienced in the past that stood out?
Probably there are two significant challenges I have faced:
1. The ‘always on’ culture of communications:
Comms has to be adaptive and responsive, and never more so than in the age of social media. Often important decisions have to be made quickly and at all times of the day. We need to be creative, strategic, and consider multiple messaging across a variety of channels, really advocating for our audiences to offer value to them. It’s a lot and it can be difficult to switch off and have an end to the working day. I work part-time, so I have had to introduce boundaries into my work. I’ve had to learn that not everything is urgent, even if others think it is, and the world isn’t going to end if I don’t reply to a message immediately!
2. Persuading people to have a value for good communication:
I think most people believe communication is fundamental, but it is a common belief that anyone can communicate. In some ways that’s true, we all talk, write, share… but a comms professional brings insight, experience and knowledge that not everyone would have, and that’s been difficult to help people see at times. I have definitely had moments in my career where I have felt undervalued. I think the evidence speaks for itself though if we work hard ultimately the results show the benefits of having a comms professional on board!
How is the role of communications perceived in your organisation?
I feel my colleagues are positive about comms, but as is fairly typical in any organisation, we don’t all necessarily understand what everyone else does and why. I think communications has previously been seen as a departmental role, as opposed to something we’re all responsible for. Tone of voice, use of language, telling stories, branding and style...those are all things that are super important to me, but perhaps not always for others! I feel the pandemic required us to have a much more integrated way of working though and I think people see the value communications more than ever now.
At React &Share, we’re obsessed with measuring our efforts to prove our worth to internal stakeholders - what measurements do you think comms teams should be presenting to their board?
I think we need to be measuring impact and engagement and then sharing the news. Often growth is a key indicator and so we become fixated with how many likes, follows or website visitors we have. What’s better though is to know who came back, who shares and saves our content, who signs up again and again. We need to tell the stories of how our work has impacted our beneficiaries and demonstrate the power of encouraging our warm audiences to be loyal and feel like they belong to the organisation.
We also need to be open about what doesn’t work. Sharing what we have learnt and solutions for doing things differently.
What advice would you give to those at the start of their career in communications?
Be prepared to diversify your skills and be constantly learning. It’s a really fun and interesting industry because you’re rarely doing the same thing over and over. But we need to be flexible if we want to be employable. It’s rare to find separate departments for all comms disciplines these days, and if you want to keep up, you’ve got to teach yourself and pick up new skills. If someone had told me 20 years ago I would know everything from how to write a press release, to SEO, to social media algorithms, to video production to writing strategy plans I would have laughed (and asked “what’s social media and SEO?”)...and yet here I am!
What do you think the secret of success is when working in communications?
Emotional intelligence! The better we understand how to relate to others and the impact we have on them, the better our work, our relationships and our mental health will be. We have a lot of needs placed on us; we work with all kinds of people, in all walks of life. We need to be resilient, slow to be offended or stressed and quick to be supportive and solution-oriented. People trust us with their stories, we need to be empathetic, trustworthy and approachable. We need to be wise, knowing how to handle a crisis in a calm manner, and we need to be kind because kind people are great team players!