A new Facebook group for public sector comms people has sailed past 1,000 members just three months after it started.
By Dan Slee
You know what? Public sector comms people are the most wonderful, generous, hardworking and sometimes hard-pressed bunch.
For more than a decade I’ve worked for and with the sector that has made me laugh, cry, be inspired and be amazed. If ever evidence was needed of all this it is the Public Sector Headspace Facebook group.
What’s that? It’s a closed group for PR, comms, web and digital people who work in the sector. There are heads of comms, directors, officers and people new to the sector. Good ideas don’t come from a job title. They come from bright people.
Why closed? So, it can be a bit of a walled garden to share ideas, ask for help and to kick the shoes off a little and let off steam.
Why public sector comms? Because there’s some unique mountains to climb that are shared by people in the sector.
Me? I’ve always been interested in creating space for people to learn and share. Good things come of it. It’s why I co-founded comms2point0 six years ago and co-founded Commscamp. With the group, I was convinced there was space on Facebook for public sector comms people. The aim was to let it grow by itself quietly and by word-of-mouth. It has. Three months on, there are 1,000 members and 100 new posts a week. For me, it is a colleague who is never too busy to help, listens, inspire, makes me smile and challenge me to make me think.
When do I pop in? First thing in the morning. Daytime sometimes and I find it especially buzzing in the evening. Then it reminds me of the early days of Twitter. All credit for this beautiful thing must go to the people who chip in and share. And to Falkirk Council’s David Grindlay who helps moderate. We keep an eye on those seeking to join to keep it largely in-house. We add the odd post but generally the content comes from the group.
What’s to talk about?
It’s reassuring that many of the problems others have faced too, no matter how niche.
In the last seven days this has included royalty free music, Donald Trump’s press releases, frustration at being called out for a spelling error, sourcing giant screens, free tools to communicate with teams, frustration at the butchering of the logo, what Facebook insights are worth reporting, sentiment analysis, Mailchimp and data protection, customer service social media, Twitter analytics headaches, local newspapers appealing for money, General Election Facebook attack ads, bus shelter ads, intranet makeovers, good social media content, Dr Seuss and clearer comms, advertising policies, Facebook Business Manager rated and what social media management platform to use.
My favourite post
There are many, but there will always be a special place for the comms manager who voiced restrained frustration at being told that someone wanted a new logo. Not only that, but they had designed it themselves. And their design was a butterfly made out of human ears. Without a safe space to vent I genuinely wonder how that individual would have coped with such a special challenge. How did the group respond? With sympathy. Comforting words and suggestions in how to tackle the issue. It was beautiful.
What do group members get out of it?
It’s fine me talking about it, but the last word needs to go to members.
“Frankly, sanity. Somewhere to speak honestly without fear of judgement.” – Sian Lower, Scottish Council for Voluntary Sector.
“It's EVERYTHING. Professional opinions, insight, understanding, tips, tricks, memes, support, love, Oxford commas, and understanding.” Sara Hamilton, New Forest District Council.
“Today I've received two fantastic social media policies to help me with the review of ours. The willingness to share best practice on any comms related topic is fantastic. It's great to feel that there's a huge pool of knowledge I can instantly draw on no matter what the issue.” – Charlotte Parker, Bedfordshire Police.
“There's tons of practical advice.” – Leanne Rockingham, NHS Lothian.
“After years as a journo and then as a freelance this is my first in house public sector job. So the experiences and insights of such a valuable community has been an incredible resource that I've drawn on deeply. My idiot questions are answered without condescension, interesting debates have helped me to see things from another perspective...it's like being in a therapy group. My name's Jane and I'm a public sector communicator.” – Jane Haynes, Worcestershire County Council.
“Two main things. Firstly, the sense of not being alone. Share a problem and someone else has been through it. Secondly, as a source of inspiration with a pool of great ideas which have already been tested in a public sector environment, so are therefore achievable.” – Lisa Potter, Perth & Kinross Council.
“Solidarity, sense checks and sanity.” – Sophie Ballinger, Eureka, the National Children’s Museum.
“A fantastic resource with likeminded people that are always willing to support and advise. You can sometimes become quite isolated in comms so it's lovely to hear about others experiences/rants and hilarious moments.” – Rachel Gardiner-James, NPT Homes.
“I've only very recently joined but feel like I've been missing out on a hidden gem here. Our team isn't huge so there isn't a huge amount to share between ourselves, but in this group we're all doing pretty much the same stuff day in day out. Great for sharing ideas.” – Nick Moore, Leeds City Council.
“This group provides much needed therapy. It's not easy the job we do and often it goes unappreciated. To be able to share with fellow comms bods across the country and rant, learn, inspire is what makes this group an absolute essential to surviving in public sector comms.” – Shayoni Sarkar Lynn, University of Cardiff.
“It's great to have like-minded people who you can brainstorm virtually with.” – Donna Jordan, Nottinghamshire Police.
“Safe space to share the blessings and the maledictions of being a public sector comms bod 😃 keeps us all sane... justabout.” Siobhan Dransfield, Barnsley Council.
“Collaborating. Innovating. Sharing experience/saving time and money. Letting off steam/venting. Geeking about all things Comms related with like minded people.” Andrea Sturgess, Blackburn with Darwen Council.
“Reassurance that you are not alone. That experience/request we have isn't unique, someone has already faced it, and someone can help you.” – Richard Wilson,
“It acts as a sounding board, a space to share ideas among peers and one where you know others will be able to share your pain at times and give you support.” – Theresa Knight, Methodist Homes.
“Edifying, enlightening and entertaining. And a lol-athon.” Ian Mountford, Energy Saving Trust.
“Being part of this group has discernibly improved my work. It's made me try new things, think more creatively and challenge myself to be better, fresher and bolder. I get a buzz from being able to offer useful advice or comments on other people's posers and I feel like this group is my tribe.” – Josephine Graham, Bradford City Council.
Dan Slee is co-founder of comms2point0.