Vickie Warren on leading a team through the first lockdowns

Vickie Warren on leading a team through the first lockdowns
Vickie Warren, head of Content and Communications at University of Wolverhampton, joins us to chat about being a small team in a large organisation.

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

From a very young age I wanted to be a journalist, and entered this career straight after university. I enjoyed meeting people from all walks of life and using words to tell their stories. Moving into PR/Communications seemed like a natural step for me when the time came to move on, and I’ve been very lucky to work in a sector that nurtures personal development and innovation. While my role at the University focused on external comms and media relations when I first started, it now embraces internal and external communications, social media and stakeholder engagement. No two days are the same and I love that about this profession. 

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

Having a genuine interest in people and their experiences, and an inquisitive mind. Communications is about people and relationships – providing information, making connections and telling stories. I think to get the best out of people – as a manager and as a communications professional – you need to emphasise, be curious and listen. 

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

We are a relatively small team in a large organisation, so we are always busy and in demand. I think prioritising when everything is important to our stakeholders is a big challenge, and managing expectations while continuing to deliver. But a challenge that really stands out was starting my current role in February 2020, just as we headed into the pandemic, the first national lockdown and the world of Teams! It was a very steep learning curve, and adapting to remote working and leading a team virtually was a huge challenge. But I think having a strong sense of purpose, as well as a great team and an inspirational line manager, ensured I maintained my focus and thrived in difficult circumstances. 

What one thing would make your working life easier?

More time and headspace to plan, think and be creative.  

How is the role of communications perceived in your organisation?

The importance of communications is definitely recognised and valued in my organisation but we are on a journey to change perceptions around the channels available and the best ways of engaging different audiences. 

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

Evolve, adapt and never stop learning. The face of communications has changed so much since I started, and I love the variety of different channels available. But I also think stepping away and taking healthy breaks from work is so important, especially if your role involves social 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?

It is easy to become fixated on numbers, whether it’s followers, comments, likes or reach. These are important insights, but I think being able to demonstrate impact and influence on our communities and how our work fits into the wider customer journey is vital. Effective calls to action and click throughs to key webpages are really important when you are trying to engage and convert an audience in a competitive marketplace. I think reflecting on what hasn’t worked is important too – live and learn. 

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

Ah now that’s what I love about comms – it’s constantly evolving. Who knew QR codes would make a comeback?! I think we are still adapting to hybrid working and how we bring face-to-face communication methods back without losing the virtual lessons of the last two years. So I think the next big thing may not be a new technological development or a new social media network, but more about how we humanise and find a balance in our communications.