Oli Adams on naturally showing genuine interest in people

Oli Adams on naturally showing genuine interest in people
Oli Adams, Director of Communications, Admissions & Development at Brentwood School and Chair of the Association of Admissions, Marketing & Communications in Independent Schools, joins us to chat about what being a "people person" really means.

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

Happenstance, that's a nice word. I'll go for that as I had planned to join the diplomatic service with my modern languages degree but failed to get in twice. I got a job in sales and watched what the marketing team were doing behind the scenes of sales and wanted to get involved.  Then when I had a (product) marketing job I watched what the Comms team were doing behind the scenes of everything and wanted to get involved. I've reconciled with myself that my languages degree is now extremely useful as it makes me think about words and how best to use them.

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

It helps to be inquisitive, instinctive and I think it helps to be a 'people person' - it's a bit overused, but you notice it when someone isn't. I mean really showing an interest in people naturally. I'm one of those people who would ask a follow up question to 'did you have a nice weekend' as I genuinely want to know. This helps you get the whole picture if you're creating a campaign or writing a piece of copy, for example.

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 the main one is that people don't really understand what we do. Someone once said to me that marketing is 'just common sense'! That leads to people coming to you with ideas that often don't fit in with the overall brand concept or strategy that's been properly thought through and exercised over many years.  

What one thing would make your working life easier?

Teleportation. Or a segway. We're on a 75 acre site and it often takes about 10 minutes to go from one meeting to another!

How is the role of communications perceived in your organisation?

I sit on the senior leadership team at the school and the team has quite a good presence. I encourage them to get involved in extra-curricular events so they get known, and we're always instilling in all staff and students that they're brand ambassadors for the organisation whether they're at school or not, so I think the perception is a good one.

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

Being unflappable, staying calm and always looking for a solution to things.  

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?

Data is king, so as much data as you have is always useful - it's our job to translate it and make it easy to digest. That's one of my favourite things to do. I'm a big fan of infographics.  

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

It's difficult to think that anything's going to change as rapidly as it has in the last five or ten years with social media, forums, and generally just always being contactable in so many ways that suit different people.  Artificial Intelligence is something we should embrace further, even at a small level. It's only going to make life easier.