Nick Fromont on having thick skin and handling criticism

Nick Fromont on having thick skin and handling criticism
Want to learn from the best? Our interview series is the best place to get advice from those with their finger on the pulse of what's new in the comms arena.

Nick Fromont, Web and Creative Services Officer at Doncaster Council, highlights the importance of linking digital statistics to real results in this insightful interview, alongside offering his top tip for getting over comments that get under the skin. 


Why did you choose to pursue a role in web and creative services? For example, has it always been your passion or was it pure happenstance? 

I think like a lot of people I kind of fell into the role that I’m currently in, but in a good way! I didn’t set out at the start of my career with this in mind, I’m a journalist by trade, and after some years working on radio (both in news and as a presenter) I joined Doncaster Council as a Marketing Officer. Social Media as a communications channel was very much in its infancy for us, and it was basically shared around the team with everyone taking turns of posting and monitoring. From here certain members of the team emerged as having more of a passion for social media, and a voice, tone and approach slowly developed. To be honest, in the early days I was very much second fiddle behind some brilliant colleagues but in a way that helped, as I was able to watch them work and try out different things. I’ve found the role takes in a lot of my passions; creativity, the immediacy communications work can have, analysing results to develop better performance and the variety of communicating different messages.


What personal skills or attributes do you think are most important in the web and communications sphere? Why these skills/attributes in particular?  

Creativity and flexibility are both vital skills to have. Social media and digital communications as a whole are often very immediate, and there are times that you need to be able to think on your feet to make messages as engaging as possible. Like a lot of communications roles, It’s also important to have a thick skin! Not only will you receive some questions from within your organisation but social media means you’ve also got to deal with criticism from the public as well. My tip – if you really want to reply to a comment that grinds your gears, type out your response and then delete it. I promise that it’ll make you feel better, just don’t press send!


What sort of challenges do you face in your role? Is there a particular challenge that you experienced in the past that stood out? 

For me, the main challenge in the role has developed since the start of the pandemic, and that is the changed perception of digital communications. 5 years ago, the ‘holy grail’ for the vast majority of services in our organisation was for communications to send out a press release on their particularly story and see that in the local newspaper. That’s changed due to the turbo-boost that the pandemic has provided to digital communications. Now services want everything to be ‘a post on social media’; the challenge for us is to explain why certain messages might not work on Facebook, Twitter etc. We’ve managed to tackle this by using our analysis and results to show that not everything needs to be a social media message, and instead provide some different options we think will work better for the service and their message.


How is the role of communications perceived in your organisation? 

I’m very lucky to be working within an organisation that truly values what communications brings. Our Chief Executive and leadership all understand the importance of what we as a team can bring to the table and are also incredibly supportive. In particular we’ve seen that with our social media output. Those who are familiar with Doncaster Council on Twitter will know that we often do things a bit differently to try and make our messages as successful as possible. This is an approach which has been developed over the last 2-3 years, and we’re lucky that from officers to our Head of Communications to our Chief Executive, we all understand and have bought in to that approach and tone of voice. The support from our Heads of Comms and Chief Executive definitely make it much easier for us to experiment and be brave with our messaging.


At React & Share, we’re obsessed with measuring our efforts to prove our worth to internal stakeholders - what measurements do you think web and comms teams should be presenting to their board?

I love a stat too! We feed a great deal of our digital figures back to leadership; social media reach and engagement, website sessions, most successful posts, email marketing open rates. They all serve to show the success that digital communications can have in reaching our target audience but more importantly they help us to constantly evolve our understanding of the channels we use to better shape future messages. Where possible we also like to link our digital stats to ‘real’ results eg. is there a correlation between a social media campaign on littering and the figures being reported by the service on litter in the community?


What advice would you give to those at the start of their career? 

My advice would be follow what you find most enjoyable. I’ve found myself working in a digital communications role partly due to trial and error, and ending up in the role that best suits my passions. In a similar vein I’d advise people not to pigeon hole themselves to a certain discipline – I started out in journalism, had a short time as a press officer, worked in marketing and now in digital comms. Have an open mind and try and develop your skills in a lot of different areas.


What do you think the secret of success is when working in communications? 

Similar to my previous answer, I think the secret of success would always be to try and enjoy what you’re doing, be yourself and be human. For me, if these factors are reflected in your work then there’s a much better chance in gaining better engagement and achieving the results your aiming for. I’d also say that being part of a great team definitely makes a difference, having colleagues to bounce ideas off can really lead to some amazing work!