The city of Leeds is a cradle of learning with an established reputation as one of the leading university cities in the UK. So it was a perfect location to kick off the first of our UnAwards Winners Masterclasses.
By Darren Caveney
Of all the things I’ve been most passionate about during my time in communications ‘learning’ and ‘recognition’ would be at the absolute front of the queue. So it was especially pleasing to be able to create not one but three UnAwards Winners Masterclasses, and the chance to recognise the best and learn from them.
And to launch the Masterclasses in Leeds, where I studied for a PR degree hundreds of years ago, was extra pleasing.
The purpose of the Masterclasses is simple. To shine a spotlight on the work of the winners and to share their insight and learning with comms colleagues across the public sector.
The quality of presentations and winning work on show was seriously impressive – yes, yes, yes, of course I’m biased. But I have been to enough events over the years to know great work when I see it. The post-event feedback from attendees in Leeds echoed this.
Some common themes emerged from five very different presentations.
Here are my six common traits of an UnAwards Winner:
1. Be Brave. You don’t get much braver than sharing some of the ‘adult’ content involved in London Fire Brigade’s #50ShadesofRed campaign. Or North Yorkshire Police taking on, and beating criminals making boastful online taunts. And we were reminded to be brave with the number of messages you share – obviously you don’t want to appear spammy but the number of your flowers who, for example, will see a message tweeted once is small. Tweet it 14 times and that number will rise. Fact.
2. The best ideas are almost always the simple ideas. Sheffield City Council’s winning ‘Our Sheffield’ video is a thing of beauty. But in a sense it couldn’t be simpler: Ask your residents to share images and films of what they most like about the city, add a soundtrack from a local band, splice it all together and turn it into a great city promo video on a lovely shoestring of a budget.
3. Your staff have authentic voices. Use them. This theme carried across almost all of the winning presentations, from Leeds City Council’s libraries staff through to North Yorkshire Police’s front line officers being creative across social media. Their staff are trusted and encouraged to engage on social media. Why wouldn’t you?
4. The tricks to running an effective team. Ross Wigham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital Gateshead won best small team and it was clear to see why. Good advice (for any size of team, as it happens) included: Not spending too much time on unconstructive local media, creating a ‘pipeline of good stories’, and the importance of not just evaluating your work but demonstrating the results to those who matter.
5. Having a clear plan, working as a team. This may sound slightly unoriginal and obvious but ‘planning’ and ‘working as a team’ ran through each winner’s talk. So in the case of Leeds City Council, working as a team included colleagues in the libraries service. They knew their service, and the comms team knew how to communicate – work together to a good plan and you’re halfway to success.
6. Creativity. This was the thing which struck me most as I sat and listened to each winner. Creativity has to be a goal at the outset of any great piece of work in order for it to really stand out in crowded channels and media. Creativity needs many things to flourish, from talented staff to time to think. It was clear to me that each of the winners were truly creative communicators. And hurray for that.
The afternoon’s Masterclass featured an UnConference session where attendees decided the agenda. In the space of 20 minutes.
Topics included tackling to internal comms challenges, being more creative with email, understanding where video fits into the comms mix now, and how to get the most from working with a creative agency. Everyone had the chance to pitch a session or to contribute to someone else’s.
Phil Jewitt and I ran a session around ‘self help, mentoring and support for our community’. The gist of this centred on ‘looking after yourself and your team mates as it will help you in your pursuit of delivering good work’. It’s one thing to survive – and we know many, many colleagues are battling with this right now. But it’s quite another to thrive and it might not happen without some thought and some care.
Top tips from the group on how to deal with the pressures and stresses of an ever-changing world included the benefits of trying something totally new – volunteer for a charity, take up art classes, find time for a daily walk, try meditation. Put yourself in a fresh space and focus on something unrelated to your work. (By the way, if you’re interested in this area of support and development check out our all-new Survival Skills workshop)
Big thanks to all of our winners for sharing their valuable insight.
Thanks too to Phil Jewitt and Leeds City Council for their support and for being a great host city.
Their kind support enabled us to offer the communications community valuable free training and insight. In the current climate that’s hugely important and much appreciated.
Darren Caveney is co-creator of comms2point0