How does it feel to make a switch from one sector to another? With turbulence and austerity many are doing it. It can be done. This is one comms manager's story.
by Theresa Knight
After 20 plus years of working in the public sector in a variety of roles, it was with great trepidation I called time on my pension scheme and benefits, took a deep breath and moved to work for a charity.
It’s been a roller coaster of a year but one I can easily say has been one of the best in my working life. And I’ve learnt that there are a lot of similarities between the public sector and the charity sector.
That might be because I work for MHA, also known to some as Methodist Homes. Despite not being that well known, we’re one of the UK’s top 20 charities providing a wide range of services for 16,000 older people across the UK. Our mission is to eliminate loneliness and isolation among older people by creating communities that care.
Our offer as a charity comes from our community-based Live at Homes schemes and the fabulous award-winning music therapy we provide free of charge to our residents living with dementia in our care homes. We also develop and run retirement living schemes and look after people in our care homes.
In the past 12 months, I’ve been involved in similar projects to those I did when I worked for local authorities, a fire and rescue service and an arms length housing organisation – producing annual reports – or impact statements as we call them, building our social media presence and making sure we produce clear and meaningful communications.
Managing our reputation with local media outlets when an inspection of one of our care homes hasn’t met our high standards and they get bad inspection reports, supporting colleagues at inquests when things haven’t gone well and having to manage communications for care home closure are all things I’ve dealt with in the past in my time working with adult social service so skills were easily transferrable.
What I have come to realise though is the fabulous stories older people have to tell. I’ve met some amazing people during the past year and want to start capitalising on those. In my opinion, older people don’t have much of a voice at times and I want to start making sure their voice is heard.
Then there’s the work we’ve been doing with Emmerdale, advising on the storyline and scripts for the story involving character Ashley Thomas being diagnosed with early onset stroke-related vascular dementia. I doubt that a local authority would have been willing to commit to the time that we’ve spent with them. We’re still working with ITV on the storyline, providing advice and guidance. But may be that’s a tale for another post in a few months.
One big change in working for MHA has been the scale of the organisation in geographic terms. We have 75 Live at Home schemes, 64 retirement living schemes and 96 care homes across Scotland, England and Wales. I’ve visited parts of the country I have never been to before – from Scotland to the Lake District, Wales and Devon.
But wherever I go and whatever I do, the way in which we plan, implement and evaluate our campaigns and communication work is similar to that of the public sector so skills and experience have easily transferred.
We need to consider our reputation so people continue to trust us as a charity and donate, we have to plan communications and work closely with our colleagues to make sure it is seamlessly integrated and we have to make sure we evaluate what we do.
And one other thing I’ve learnt – Premier Inns are really okay to stay in overnight.
Theresa Kinight is media relationship manager at Methodist Housing Association.
Picture credit: Documerica / Flickr.