a holiday book that tells a comms story

Switching off on holiday with a good book can reap dividends. There's an unexpected lesson in a book on footpaths.

by Dan Slee

Okay, so I went offline on holiday this past week.

It was cream teas, throwing stones on the beach and no internets. I followed my own advice and switched off.

It was like the 1970s only this time I had money.

One of the books I took with me and raced through was 'The Old Ways' by Robert McFarlane.

It's a book that traces some of the old paths of Britain and across the world.

There's the Icknield Way in southern England some of which was first trodden by hunters 5,000 years ago.

There's the deadliest footpath in Britain, the Broomway, which emerges at lowtide to link Essex with Foulness that has claimed a hundred lives.

Stray off the route marked by the spikes of dead brooms and you face a lonely death sucked into the mud or overcome by the tide.

As MacFarlane writes, if it didn't exist then Victorian Gothic novelist Wilkie Collins would have invented it.

Mist shrouds the route as the author walks it retelling the macabre tales that litter its history.

There's also the sea paths off the coast of Scotland that have been routes for centuries before the Romans set foot on British shores.

There's paths in Palestine walked as a quiet protest on foot knowing that they risk death by an Israeli army sniper or settler. 

It's a book about walking and the act of walking that is littered with stories from the field.

As I sat in my holiday deckchair putting the book aside it made me think.

The best story telling doesn't come with a comms plan or with key messages. It comes from the field with mud on its boots.

It's why such brilliant examples work like National Trust's Lake District fells team, Waterstones Oxford Street on Twitter and Morgan Bowers from Walsall Council on Flickr, Twitter, Facebook and Audioboo.

They're stories from the sharp end that reinforce once again that often the most effective story telling is often done by non-pr people.

That's not to say there isn't a role for the central comms team. There is. It's just that part of that role is to share the access. 

Dan Slee is co-creator of comms2point0. He also blogs here. 

Picture credit