Commscamp saw more than 150 public sector communications people come together. There were a few who are no longer comms professionals too. They added to the learning.
by Emma Leigh
You've read the buzz from this year's CommsCamp. The great and good from comms met, they shared, debated, empathised, ate cake and ice cream - and yes, I was actually there, I even booked a day's annual leave for the privilege.
So true confessions and interloper, bit cryptic?
My name is Emma and I no longer work as a 'comms professional' I'm actually a mental health commissioner by trade. Interloper, well I kinda added my name to the wait list for tickets, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best - hoping that the Comms2.0 team would remember my name from days gone by when I was a real-life Communications Manager. Fortune was on my side, and I found my way heading to Birmingham in search of the foam fingers.
So what business does an interloping mental health commissioning manager have at CommsCamp I here you ask? Here are my reflections:
Comms teams are shrinking, no surprises the rest of organisations are too. The more you can these bids members of your extended teams the better. I'm not talking design or content here (yes we've all heard the horror stories) but these are the people who know the services inside out and back to front - get them to tell you in 'real speak' it will make your life so much simpler
Shrinking teams elsewhere in organisations mean they are often doing jobs that were often done by several people previously. So there is a good chance positive and good news stories will be missed as everyone has got their heads down dealing with churn, they are not ignoring you, promise. Me personally, I entice my comms colleagues out for a coffee so I can talk about everything I am doing once in a while, a) so I can have their undivided attention and b) so they can pick out where my news links into the bigger picture of the organisation c) we can relate to each other as people, not just as harassed colleagues in a busy office!
Perhaps one of the most important and reassuring learnings from CommsCamp was this. On returning to the office, I had to deal with a hugely difficult and challenging issue related to children's mental health (a massively emotive issue) initially in our local media, which quickly spread into the health media via the Health Service Journal, then into radio, online and so forth. As a commissioner I pride myself on running a very tight ship, so all of the information that was required was immediately to hand. However, if it wasn't for my close working relationship with my comms team or my existing knowledge of how the media and the press work, the whole situation would have been a whole lot more difficult and professionally challenging. Echoes of the session facilitated by Darren after lunch where we dealt with people's perceptions of the NHS in the media were spot on, it certainly helped to know that many others routinely face similar challenges.
I'm already looking ahead to CommsCamp 17. I'm thinking of pitching a session about how to work with your commissioners, make them your protégés and your supporters.
Emma Leigh MBE is clinical projects manager at NHS Eastern Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group.