post-its and death, tax discs and behavioural science: how #commsforchange14 made me a better comms person

#CommsForChange14 was created to be a leading event for communications professionals dealing with change in the public sector today.  But how did it pan out as a learning experience?

By Darren Caveney

We are often told that change is the new constant. But I have been communicating change ever since I entered the industry about a hundred years ago. You’ll be exactly the same. Change isn’t new and neither is communicating it.

So, we should be really good at it by now? Err, actually, not necessarily so.

I have been involved in some brilliant change comms projects. But I’m also the first to put my hand up to having been involved in a couple of duffers too.

In planning for this event I reflected back on the magic ingredients which ran through the good ones as well as where the duffers were found wanting. The duffers have tended to be the ones which had the most uncertain outcomes, where employees were not properly and genuinely engaged, and where personal financial impacts might be felt. That is a deadly, non-engaging comms cocktail.

So there was a lot to discuss at #commsforchange14 and the resultant learning was rich and diverse.

This first event took place in Birmingham's iconic Bond Company and the morning saw leading comms change experts from across the public sector share lessons, skills and case studies. Panel Q&As and delegate interaction was boosted by plenty of fresh coffee and biscuits throughout the day.

We learned how the brilliant change projects being driven within DVLA all began with post-its and pens and were bound together by excellent team working and engagement. We also saw the quite marvellous ‘Goodbye to the tax disc’ film – created without external spend and which, frankly, puts a few other expensive public sector films to shame. I urge you to watch it - it will make you laugh (in a good way)

Cormac Smith often debates whether comms is an art or a science. Personally, I think you need a mix of both to ensure really effective and creative comms activity. And speakers Paul Masterman and John MacPherson gave us bucketfuls of reasons to underline why he science part of the equation is so important with excellent case studies based upon understanding behaviours and engagement triggers. John MacPherson pitched unconference session was simply described as ‘death’. And it turned out to be anything but.

Michael Bayliss-Brown of GovDelivery reminded us why email still remains an extremely powerful and effective channel to engage. You ignore it at your peril.

And Adrian Capon nicely illustrated the creative approach which he and Yorkshire Housing bring to their communications of big change projects.

In the afternoon we ran a communications unconference which went from no agenda items to a bursting agenda in 20 minutes flat - suggested and shaped by the attendees themselves on the subjects they wanted to talk about. Three times three sessions ran in the next couple of hours covering a multitude of issues affecting change comms.

A brilliant day, bags of learning on tap and demand to take this event to other parts of the UK it seems.

Oh, and it trended nationally on Twitter during the day.

For me, the true measure of any event is that you learn new things which improve us as comms professionals. I absolutely believe that none of us has all the answers and I learnt many things during my day at the Bond Company. It also crystallised my belief that change is all around, and that we need to be dammed good at communicating it.

Thank you to all those who made it fly.

If you are keen for #commsforchange 14 to come to a town or city near you please drop us a note at

Darren Caveney is co-creator of comms2point0

pic by me