comms room 101 - part 3

Just as the original Rocky film sparked multiple follow-up movies, Emma Rodgers' Comms Room 101 post continues to inspire new posts...

by Amanda Nash

When Darren asked me to create a Comms Room 101 part 3, I ducked out at first. After all, Comms Room parts 1 and 2 are hard to follow.

There’s many better minds than mine in the wonderful world of comms and surely an aggregated list of people’s asks and tips would be much better than mine alone, right?

And, believe it or not, I don’t really like taking the proverbial out of those who come with to us what we may consider ‘silly’ requests, but that’s a bit harsh. Surely it’s part of our job as communications professionals to offer advice and guidance.

But we do all have our pet hates and it is just a little a bit tempting to share them. I just couldn’t do it without adding a more positive, what to do in response, tip. So here’s five of the things that cause me a wry smile inside and what I do about them…

What we need is to get (insert staff/residents/customers etc) on board with this ….

Yes ….  but perhaps if it wasn’t the kind of idea that even Siobhan Sharpe from Twenty Twelve would laugh at, those people would come because they wanted to, not because you wanted them to. This is 2015, people have information at their fingertips, choice, ideas and most are quite capable of conversation, so if you want to talk to people about an idea, do it. See if they like it. Listen to their feedback. Maybe have a think about your initial idea/plan in light of what they say, make a revision. Hey, you may even want to talk to people before you come up with it and co-produce something. But, with all due respect to Micky Flanagan, it’s time to leave On The Buses behind.  I haven’t seen much evidence lately that propaganda works.

Suggest instead that the person/team road test their idea with whoever they want to ‘get on board’. Perhaps they might want to invite people affected to get together – on social media, in person etc – to define the problem and then work together on a solution.

We need a celebrity to open this

I am privileged to work in healthcare. The people who matter most are our patients. No celebrity , however A-list, is as important as them. Not really. Some of the most moving events I have ever been involved with are when former patients, who have been treated by the staff involved, come back to open new units, facilities etc. It’s proper moving. It matters.

Ask the person leading on the new facility, who are you doing this for? Unless a celebrity is personally-affected, I’d be inclined to think closer to home. Ordinary people have some extraordinary stories.

We just need a new brand image
Really? How exactly is it going to make a difference? Unless it’s at the end of a thorough review of your values and culture and an improvement to your service, this is probably a distraction activity or even worse, a vanity project. Believe me, I’ve seen this in all manner of places. Only once has it ever been truly needed. Culture change starts from within, with people.

Suggest instead that the leadership team start with talking to people involved in the organisation or customers etc about what the place stands for; how things are done around here; what are the problems, the solutions, what kind of service you want to offer, how that can be done, by whom, by when etc etc …. Work on addressing those. If you still need a new brand image and strapline after you’ve done all this, it will fall out of this work naturally.

Oh, you can just photoshop it and make us look great.
*When you’ve been asked to take the world’s dullest photo of 22 people in a small office doing not very much*

There’s only one answer to this … No. 90% of a great photo lies in the composition. No matter how you arrange these elements, it’s still going to look like 22 people crammed into a small office looking at the camera. I won’t even get started on how participants expect their own personal image to be magically photoshopped. I know Photoshop is a wonderfully powerful programme but …

Be brave. Talk to the person requesting the image about what they want the photo to say and then rethink together about how you can do that in an interesting way.  It probably won’t involve all 22 people, but if keeping everyone happy is the name of the game, perhaps you could take a series of images and use them in different ways.

We just need to make this job advert more attractive …

Check. What needs to be made more attractive? Is it the job advert or the job? The words of Shakespeare combined with the artistic touch of Banksy is not going to help you recruit someone great to a poor organisation or fill a role with a specialist skillset that simply isn’t out there.

If you suspect the job itself may be the problem and your probing proves right, what is needed is a recruitment strategy not a better designed/worded job advert. Don’t be afraid to say this … tactfully of course … and offer your input and advice into creating said strategy.

What the above reminds me most is that for all the great outcomes we produce, perhaps the single biggest value we add is in the ability to question, to scope, to think through the why, what, how, with whom etc and to advise accordingly. And no, that isn’t “the magic stuff you do” – it’s born of theory, understanding evidence of what works and many, many hours of hard-earned experience.

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