Nikki Mann on empathy and a desire to learn

Nikki Mann on empathy and a desire to learn
Nikki Mann, digital communications manager at Milner Therapeutics Institute, University of Cambridge, joins us to chat about empathising with audiences and cultivating curiosity.

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

A little bit of both. I've always been fascinated by the different ways people consume information, and how minor changes in communication style can have huge impact on how that information is received. But my growth into a communications career was a natural progression from a more administrative role. I've needed to communicate effectively with a wide range of stakeholders throughout my entire career, and when my previous position led to my involvement in setting up the Milner Therapeutics Institute I moved naturally into more of a focused communications role. I feel like I have really found my passion.

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

Empathy, the ability to listen to others, and a desire to learn. If you are able to listen to different points of view and place yourself in the shoes of others, you can begin to understand what might be the best way to communicate information to them. How does this person like to consume information? How will this information make them feel? Once you can understand those fundamentals you can shape your communications accordingly.

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 work in a science environment, but my degree is in English Literature. In the early days I would worry I might not be able to communicate scientific details effectively, but I realised quickly that it is actually powerful to ask additional questions when you need to. It would be impossible for any communications professional to know the ins and outs of every field of expertise – so the trick is to listen well, ask the right questions, and take it from there.

What one thing would make your working life easier?

Time. In digital communications things change quickly, and to stay on top of relevant information you need to spend time researching and learning. By the same token, being in a communications role often means requesting other people’s time for various projects... So yes. More hours in the day would be good!

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

Seeing the bigger picture: Understanding that each small piece of communication is building something far bigger, helping your organisation succeed in its mission.

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?

Anybody can present social media and web statistics, but understanding them is a different matter. I like to see the numbers turned into something more relatable – thinking about why a particular post/piece has performed well and how that knowledge might shape future communications. People aren't numbers and we shouldn't ever treat them as such.

Looking into your crystal ball, what do you think will be the next big thing in communications?

Youtube. There, I said it!