Molly Davis, head of communications at British Institute of Innkeeping, joins us with her thoughts on the personalities that succeed in comms and the importance of real-time feedback.
Why did you choose to pursue a role in communications? For example, has it always been your passion or was it pure happenstance?
My career has always taken a path that allowed me to deal directly with people, whether that be in sales or marketing and communication roles, but my current role has ignited my passion for the licensed trade industry and the fantastic people who run pubs across the UK.
What personal skills or attributes do you think are most important in the communications sphere? Why these skills/attributes in particular?
I think there are a multitude of different personality facets and skill sets that are relevant within the comms world. Some people have a talent for organisation and planning, whilst others have a creative flair that allows them to hone in on the right tone and messaging for their organisations — both are vital, but there are a wide variety of roles that allow everyone the space to grow and develop.
I do believe that a natural ability to connect with people from all walks of life, at all levels, makes for a more successful path in communications though. Whether connecting with external customers, or dealing with internal stakeholders, you need to be able to effectively manage all of those relationships and understand a wide variety of points of view before you can land on the right plan of action.
What sort of challenges do you face in your role? Is there a particular challenge that you experienced in the past that stood out?
My role covers a wide range of areas, from website and social, to event organisation and communication with industry peers and Government. Switching hats on a very frequent basis every day, is one of the most challenging aspects of my role, but also the most rewarding. At the heart of everything we do at the BII, we inspire, develop and support our members and I love the challenge of making sure we communicate effectively across all of those key areas.
What one thing would make your working life easier?
I’m sure everyone has a similar answer to this, but more hours in the day and more time in advance to plan. Having said that, I am also someone who thrives on the challenge of making something that seems impossible happen in a very short space of time. I’m incredibly lucky to have a team who are highly skilled at managing that change of pace, and support me no matter what each day brings.
How is the role of communications perceived in your organisation?
As a relatively small organisation, we are all acutely aware of the need for everyone to have an understanding of all roles, as well as our company purpose. Everyone understands that you can’t have a separate stream for communications in a small team – we are all an integral part of getting the right information out to the right people.
Having worked for larger organisations, I much prefer the approach that a smaller company allows, where we all contribute and take responsibility for developing the work we do. Without our customer services team, we can’t understand the challenges facing our members, and so we therefore can’t help them. The ability to have real-time feedback from our members is key to our success, as is the speed in which my team can cut through complex legislation and problems in our sector and turn it into clear, actionable information.
What do you think the secret of success is when working in communications?
I think the key to any success is down to your attitude and your ability to diversify your thinking. The people I admire most have an innate ability to make people feel at ease in any situation – a quality that I think is vital in a role that asks people to listen and pay attention to what you are saying. Trying to engage with busy licensees means that we have to make them feel confident that we can, and are, doing everything in our power to support them. During the pandemic, we worked tirelessly to ensure they had everything they needed to weather the storm, and this development of our relationship with our members has continued to grow since that point.
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?
For us, it is important to understand where we can improve our engagement, not only with members, but also with other key stakeholders across the industry. To do that, you have to ask the simple questions – not assume you know the answers. One of the greatest successes we have had recently has been the survey programme we have been running over the last 18 months. We ask about how we can support our customers more, but also what they truly value about our existing relationship – with some results we expected, but some that we didn’t. It was, and remains, a hugely valuable asset, not only to develop our own support, but also to be able to take their voices to the heart of Government to authentically show what help they need to thrive as well as survive in their small, often family-run businesses.
Looking into your crystal ball, what do you think will be the next big thing in communications?
Social media continues to develop and change at an astounding rate, but the appetite that we have seen for video content, whether that be short bursts of content, or longer webinars and presentations has been phenomenal. Some members who were wary of even using computers 18 months ago, are now joining us to take an active part in webinars and utilising all of our online tools to help them in their businesses. Accessing these at any time is key for our busy licensees who will never work 9-5, so making them available night and day will continue to be our focus going forwards.
In addition, we are seeing people, particularly in our sociable and vibrant sector, wanting to come out and connect in real life again and are next month hosting over 900 people at our annual lunch, to celebrate the excellence and dedication of those who work in the licensed trade. Connection with like-minded people, celebrating, commiserating, learning and growing is at the heart of communications and is what I love about my role and our wonderful pubs.