Lucy Taylor, Director of Communications and Engagement for the Diocese of Gloucester, checks in with us to discuss her learnings gained as the connector between people and departments and their audiences.
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 for a BA in Professional Media at university as I had always wanted to work in the TV and film industry.
After graduating I did contract work for Granada Television in Manchester, which is now known as ITV. That shows my age! I was then offered a permanent position in Gloucestershire to become a researcher for a company who produced travel programmes. This led to me managing the researchers and doing more of the behind the scenes work, rather than being out with the film crews. Ultimately this led me into my role in communications.
What personal skills or attributes do you think are most important in the communications sphere? Why these skills/attributes in particular?
Being relational, a good listener, open-minded, creative and a team worker is all-important. As a Director of Communications and Engagement, it’s my job to know about everything that is happening in the organisation and to be the connector between people and departments and their audiences - getting along with people and earning their trust is key.
Being confident and calm helps when managing reactive and difficult media situations. You need the confidence to manage upwards and take control of the situation. I also think common sense goes a long way. I’m always surprised how people can lose all sense of themselves and the situation when they have a journalist asking tricky questions.
It’s also my role to challenge and be the person in the leadership team who will question the why and what from a stakeholder perspective.
A good sense of humour can also get you a long way!
What sort of challenges do you face in your role? Is there a particular challenge that you experienced in the past that stood out?
I think a major challenge, but one I enjoy is how we share the Christian faith in relevant ways with people in society today. For generations, people would go to church because their parents did and now that’s not the case. My role is about how we provide spaces and opportunities for people to ask, ‘well who is God and what does that mean for me?’
What one thing would make your working life easier?
I think a challenge, which a lot of charities face, is limited people and financial resources. I have such a varied job. I develop communications strategies, organise events in the House of Lords, write stories, advise on safeguarding situations, develop branding, run campaigns, the list goes on. But with only having a small team and a very limited budget we always want to do more and that can be frustrating at times.
It is also a challenge to get people to recognise when they are sitting on a really fascinating story, which they don’t see as they are living it. To them, they are just living their everyday lives.
How is the role of communications perceived in your organisation?
We’re here to connect and support all the churches across our area, to support our central services team of 70 staff, to be the voice of the Church of England regionally, and to link with national Church and partner campaigns and projects.
For our central team, the saying is “Communications is the golden thread that runs through everything we do”. I’m very lucky to work with amazing Bishops and a leadership team who understand the importance of good communications.
What do you think the secret of success is when working in communications?
I think the ability to take a message, a piece of work, or a story and create something that engages the intended audience. Listening is also key. If you don’t create audience centred communications, then it’s a non-starter. But the basis for all good communication is excellent content and powerful stories.
It’s also important to constantly develop what you do to keep things fresh and relevant, especially with digital media.
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?
We constantly review our digital media and website data to develop and change our communications to fit the audience's needs and interests. It’s the same with any events we host or training we provide. We review who came, what their feedback said, always thinking about how we can improve our services.
Another powerful tool to notice change is sharing stories. To keep looking back helps shape future strategies.
Looking into your crystal ball, what do you think will be the next big thing in communications?
Every day I wake up there is a new app, a new way to communicate, it’s hard to keep up sometimes. But interestingly what we have seen over this Covid-19 pandemic is the importance of traditional forms of communication. A phone call, a postcard from a friend, a face to face conversation and gathering. These are the forms of communication that people are really craving right now.