CommsUnplugged and me

7 min read Written by: Victoria Ford

Last weekend I found myself in a field in Dorset as a non communications professional amongst the delegates of CommsUnplugged 2018. In fact this was my second time ‘in the field’ and despite my dislike of camping and lack of comms background I found myself more than happy to be back amongst it.

A change delivery professional at a comms event

My experience is in change delivery. I am an agile delivery manager having delivered a range of high profile, public facing digital projects and programmes, breaking down barriers and championing a user centred, agile delivery approach and mindset. Collaborative working between teams and disciplines is essential and I know the value that communications teams bring to successful change delivery.

Whilst CommsUnplugged was billed as ‘the communications professional’s retreat’ it made perfect sense for Perago-Wales to sponsor this unique event. We have long held the view that to really affect transformational change you need to take a whole organisation approach to delivering change. Without effective communications successful change delivery is almost impossible and starting with people is key, whether that’s your external or internal users. So with this in mind I joined my Perago colleague, Victoria Ford, in facilitating an afternoon session on innovation and internal communications.

What did I learn?

Comms people are really passionate about their roles, their audiences and adding value.

Whilst the reputation of internal communications is shifting away from being the afterthought and ‘soft’ option, there are still reputational and professional challenges for internal communicators. We had a great conversation about positioning in organisations and the need to clearly link activity to business outcomes and prove value.

Influencing at the right time and in the right place can be really hard going.

Many of those in the session found it hard to get access to the right people at the right time to develop and deliver comms that work. We did hear some really inspiring examples of leaders that ‘get’ the role of internal comms and, as a result, allowed the teams to engage colleagues at the right time and embed behavioural change and shift cultures.

You are not alone!

Many of those present found just sharing their challenges and hearing that others had similar pain points really valuable. Whatever our profession, we can often feel alone in our challenges and being able to step back in a safe, non judgemental environment like the one at CommsUnplugged can be as valuable, if not more so than someone just giving you the answer to your problem.

Internal communications and external communications are two parts of the same thing.

Specialisms and experience are really important, particularly when it comes to tough messages and hard to reach audiences, but consolidated campaigns linked to organisational objectives are the best way to deliver change communications regardless of discipline.

Pine cones and alpacas

Beyond this workshop and the others I attended, CommsUnplugged was a lot more; it was an opportunity to focus on the importance of wellbeing and recognise its value in ensuring you remain creative and at the top of your game. It also made me realise the importance of community and how we can help each other through our professional challenges. The comms community is an inclusive, open and engaging one and I’m sure everyone went away knowing there was someone they could reach out to for advice and share experiences with.

As well as listening to the great speakers and mingling with fellow ‘unpluggers’ I was able to switch off from the day job and talk about pine cones, alpacas and the benefits of pole fitness (otherwise known as pole dancing to everyone else). So thank you CommsUnplugged and the comms community for welcoming me again and making me an honorary member of the comms community for those 48 hours in the field.

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