Part 3: Broke Girls Guide to Professional Development in Communications

Rugby has been a part of my life since I was about 15 years old. I have seen friends break bones, shared pints with legends and never had anyone mansplain the offside rule to me.

I try to reserve spamming my social media timelines for the World Cup season, so feel free to mute me in September. However, last Saturday I broke this self-imposed rule because the Calcutta Cup showdown between England and Scotland was spectacular.  In his post-match interview, Scotland's Finn Russell said in a BBC interview, “At half-time, I had an argument with Gregor [Townsend] because nothing was working. We just came out in the second half with nothing to lose”. I think of how Scotland lost to Australia in the final minutes of the 2015 quarterfinals and wonder if this is a team that plays best when they decide they have nothing to lose? And what springs to mind is a caution I was once given along the lines of; the most dangerous opponent is the one who has nothing to lose.

So, for this post, I am drawing inspiration from a quote from Steve Hansen, the Head coach of the All Blacks and have asked for some tips, hints and advice from our incredible Comms network. 

You learn from everybody. Every encounter you have with a human being, or even animals, if your mind is open, you’ll learn something. If it’s not, you’ll go through life learning nothing.
— Steve Hansen
  • Look outside: Take advantage of our wealthier cousins advertising, marketing and tech. It may sound strange but an actual past time of mine is to get lost in the ‘Our Work ‘page of agencies. Last year during London Tech Week, I went for a few of the free or low-cost evening events and learnt so much. I will be keeping my eye on Ad Week to see what themes, conversations, and trends emerge. You don't have to go to Cannes Lions  Festival to see what the best in the Ad world are doing watch the best of 2018 online for inspiration and check out the website to see what is coming through this June. In January Darren Caveney, arranged an agency day for the LGComms Future leaders and summarised it in a post be fierce and never mediocre – 28 lessons from a top creative agency.  You will find that there is a lot of crossovers.  Brand guru James Kerr wrote one of my favourite business books which is inspired by the All Blacks but is drenched in employee engagement tips, strategy and communications principles. Go further afield for learning whether that be in terms of industry or location. Draw inspiration from across the ponds. What behavioural science, strategy or creative ideas can we learn from sports, psychology, business, entertainment and the military.  

My best advice is to read and read. Don’t get stuck in your lane. Every time you see a comms response try to unpick the story, spot best practice, tactics but from every industry not just your own. That and get a mentor but not always as easy.
— Sam Hodges, Director of Content Communications (EMEA) at Netflix,
  •  Collaboration: It may be the new buzz word, but it rings true. Come together with others and form communities that are built with the goal or learning, sharing and developing each other. Start a culture in your organisation and beyond of sharing the knowledge from training, conferences, events and campaigns. Why not invite someone for lunch with your team or set-up a group call to work out a problem together. Face to face events have a cost attached to them, but many professionals are happy to spare a lunch hour or evening to have a chat about ideas. Over the last few months, I have organised quite a number of these sessions over the phone with senior people talking about a range of things from Artificial Intelligence, development courses, job interview prep and idea development. Even if you don’t have anyone to share with yet start building a collection, so you are ready as you look for your tribe.

Whatever one colleague gains bring it back to the team. In other words, share the learning around so the team and the organisation benefit. That’s definitely the main one. If you’re a larger team and need some core skills, consider commissioning a bespoke version of a set piece for your whole team. It is good for team dynamics as well as learning. I’d say be selective about it if budgets are tight.

— Georgia Turner  1/3 of Comms Unplugged and Head of  Communication and Marketing, Bournemouth Borough Council and Borough of Poole
  • What are you entitled to: Understand your organisation's policy on training, development and allowances for registrations to professional bodies. Get savvy on what you qualify for and how you can ensure you get what you need, i.e. does it need to be in your appraisal or are you entitled because of your role or because of the business your organisation is. If you can register with a professional body make all effort to do the CPD, be on committee’s if you can to network and ask questions.

  • Say Yes: One yes has the power to change everything. It can be hard in the beginning, but it creates a domino effect. One ‘Yes’ changes everything as Josephine Graham shared in her blog post, “What if….?“ for Comms Unplugged.    

Learn from those you work with and be situationally aware. Find a mentor you trust and can share dilemmas with. Use all available free resources (in particular research articles on google.scholar, ResearchGate and ScienceDirect - buy an individual subscription which is not expensive at all). Leadership and Development should be replicable regardless of the industry/role one works in so you need to have an excellent grasp of their general applicability.
— Ella Minty Co-Chair @CIPR_UK Energy Leadership Platform; Chart. PR; @ILM_UK Fellow; #powerandinfluence founder.
  • Mark your own work: I know it sounds brutal but at the end of match teams and players do a de-brief so that they work on their weak area for the next game. Create a benchmark by which you score your campaigns and content. Whether that be the OASIS model or by industry awards standards. From that identify the areas where you need to grow. For example, measurement of campaign objectives, or public speaking skills.  If you are at a higher level why not start judging awards so you can get a better understanding of what is happening in the industry.

There’s loads of stuff out there for free online - TED talks, podcasts, blogs, Twitter chats etc. Maybe look at accessing some of this together with other team members to share and discuss what you learn and make it more collaborative and interactive. Also, make sure anyone in the team who does get some development from that precious budget brings it back and shares with the team. Think of fun and active ways to do this and get people involved rather than talking at people. Choose your learning opportunities carefully so that they really meet a need and you can implement what you learn. Make those pennies count. Finally - learn by doing.  Just try stuff - explore, create and be curious. Oh and books. Good old-fashioned books (Or audiobooks if you prefer). Do book swaps, get recommendations from people. But going analogue is a great way to feed your brain in a more relaxed, peaceful way going at your own pace.
— Sally Northeast, 1/3 of Comms Unplugged and the Deputy Director for OD, Communication and Participation at Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust .

Find the gap and sidestep: What are the unexplored ideas, the unwritten stories and the unanswered questions that you can hone in on? A perfect example of this is the informative blog post by Lisa Potter, "Learning on The Go Making time to learn new things." in which she provides her perspective and fills a gap in content. Another is Comms Hero who are giving me so much FOMO at the moment with their exciting and fun conferences.

I really hope this series has been helpful and please leave your comments below or share on Linkedin and Twitter. My vision for this space was that it be a place of experimenting and learning, so posts like this are special.

Some starter Newsletter to subscribe or websites to check out.

  •  Digital Buzz Blog

  • Hubspot’s Marketing Blog

  • Campaign Live

  • Buzzfeed  Adweek

  • The Marketing Society

  • Creativepool Daily,

  • Social Media Today

  • Gorkana

  • DigiDay Tech Crunch

  • Social Media Today

  • The Verge

  • Marketing Dive

  • The Drum

     

Podcasts to try

  • IPA AdTalk, CNN Boss Files,

  • Virgin Voom

  • Campaign podcast

  • Connected Podcast

  • Eat Sleep Work Repeat

  • NPR How I Built This

  • Marketing Week

  • O Behave

  • Ogilvy

  • Secret Leaders

  • The IABC EMENA Podcast

  • The Drum

  • Innovation Ecosystem

  • Strategy Skills

  • HBR Ideacast

  • The McKinsey Podcast

  • Madison & Culture with David Sable

  • Ice Cream for Everyone with Willem van der Horst

  • The Bottom Line

  • Vergecast, Pivot hosted by Kara Swisher & Scott Galloway

  • The Green Room, Connected

  • Secret Leaders

  • How to Make Brands Real Famous,  

Broke Girls Pleas to Conference Producers

I like nice things. I adore my Frank and Green coffee cups, yes, I have more than one, I need choices as I do my bit to save the ocean. I love my Aldo boot collection because it’s the only shoe shop that seems to have stylish footwear that fit me and I cherish my Marks & Spencer granola slices. As much as these things make me sound like a snob, these small luxuries all fall neatly into a modest budget, that my salary bracket can accommodate.

What does, however, make my eyes water is the cost of industry conferences. I am very passionate about professional learning and development. I think that communications and Public Relations pros should be given the opportunity to network, share ideas and develop authentic in-person relationships. Recently I wrote two blog posts, with the title ‘Broke Girls Guide to Professional Development in Communications’ and as I begin thinking about part 3, I am struggling to suggest conferences, because of their cost. There is an undercurrent of rumblings which is calling our industry to do better in many areas, but it is time our professional bodies and the influential voices began to holding organisers to account, on the cost, content and location of events.


While I understand that on this subject I speak from a place of privilege because I now work for a company that has a rather forward-thinking view on learning and development. I believe that I would not have this job if I hadn’t been given professional development opportunities. That is why I care about how much things cost and content. Why throw the ladder down at those coming up behind you, when you have climbed to the next level, a nugget I got from Dr Rosena Allin-Khan at the Marie Claire’s Future Shapers event 2018.

The glaring lack of young voice on conference line-ups is worrying. As we fix our crowns and halos with our International Women’s Day glow still fresh, can we address our industries failure to do anything that celebrated or acknowledged the outstanding young women in our space? While I respect the graft of those who have gone before me and sit at their feet, we need more peer to peer support and a space that encourages this. Apprentices, communications assistants and junior executives of all genders, races and backgrounds need to be able to see themselves and know it is possible. Are we an industry that celebrates them now, or only after 20 years in.

Comms Unplugged Marquees by Night - Courtesy of Comms Unplugged

Comms Unplugged Marquees by Night - Courtesy of Comms Unplugged

An example of this is at last year’s Granicus Summit in London, the outstanding Connie Osborne presented Crisis Comms - Managing Manchester's Darkest Hour. It’s a testament to the leadership of Amanda Coleman, the Head of Corporate Communications at Manchester police who is one of the most respected people in public relations, and it is clear to see why she encourages younger people in her team to shine. Please note that when I say young, I don’t merely mean in age, I also refer to industry experience or role. I am only a year into specialising in internal communications, but I too have something to add to the discussion, an award shortlist in my first year. Which is why I am grateful for platforms such as the Institute of Internal Communication’s FutureNet initiative. Comms Unplugged is a pioneering event that is extremely well run and has all the elements of what makes a conference great. As someone shared in the Comms Unplugged what’s app group recently, “Give me a pizza and a night in a tent for a fraction of the price over a gala dinner and a night in the Hilton any day”. The popularity of the Comms Hive dinners being organised by Advitia, the Chair of CIPR Insider is evident that we need inclusive alternatives. It was cheaper for me last year to see Bruno Mars in VIP, Ed Sheeran at Wembley and Kevin Hart in San Francisco combined than one ticket to many industry events. It put the guilt I have about living my youth into perspective.

In case you missed the news, on the other side of the aisle, our counterparts in the public sector are grappling with austerity. High conference fees are unjustifiable when it comes to balancing the budget at the end of the year. As one senior professional in communications shared, it would cost her almost £900 for a day conference and expenses. While many would willingly dip into their own pockets and are, for the benefit of their own careers. What example does this set for future generations, the best events are reserved for the high rollers? I applaud the LGComms Future Leaders Scheme and mentoring programmes such as BME Pros, but places are limited. We need sustainable solutions that can accommodate a wider audience and encompass pros at all levels. While I also argue that not everyone has their sights set on being a director of Communications or being a consultant, opportunities for growth and development should be accessible regardless of their career ambition for their current or future roles.

Throughout my entire career, I have been lucky enough to find a way to network and interact with people who have influence and have the power to make a difference. From Terri White, Hugh Muir, Sam Baker, to the wonderful men and women I have informal mentoring relationships with today. But a lot of these relationships were formed because I was in the right place at the right time. A room I paid to be in, at times.

We are an industry that is rewarded to craft narratives, but what story are we telling about ourselves when our flagship events fail to reflect the vibrant, inclusive industry we wish to see.

Getting Out of my Own Way

It took place on May 2, 2015, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs Manny Pacquiao, fight. I know that fact. I was the only one on the table which included men that knew the answer. Seems irreverent, a by the way fact maybe. But at that moment I recalled all the times I refused to take part in quizzes because I thought I had nothing to add and was rubbish at them. But on Monday I thought let me give this a try, and I contributed. Nobody had ever told me I couldn’t be a part of a quiz I discounted myself.

So my commitment this International Women’s Day is to give myself a chance.

I am particularly obsessed with gifs and where possible I try to use one that represents women or people of colour. This week, Josephine Graham, penned a fascinating blog for Comms2Point0, one small step for womankind – support a new movement through your choice of gifs, which is a must read.


It is a reminder to speak up when you notice something and the importance of using your voice where you are. In that spirit, I assembled a panel of very diverse women this week for a peer-peer conversation on a career in communications, digital marketing and technology. I promised that it would be candid, and honest it was. It’s another example of getting out of my own way and moving forward with the dreams and aspirations that I have.

The very inspiration Caitlin Moran, came to Sky this week and gave a funny talk. What stuck with me the most was that diversity is not a target. If you are going to do, then do it right at every level of the organisation, not wearing a moral badge of honour like you have done the world a favour by employing a woman. Also, scented candles are wasted on men.


Please check out these incredible pieces.


A letter to all the women in my life… by Advita Patel

From a woman to a woman by Ella Minty

Diary of a female communicator in a world of 30,000 men by All Things IC

Part 1: Broke Girls Guide to Professional Development in Communications

If you are not frightened, you are not original.
— Jimmy Iovine

Saturday mornings are my favourite time of the week. Regardless of whether I am doing a spin class, grabbing brunch with a friend or having a lie in after one too many glasses of Merlot the night before in my very Olivia Pope wine glass.

This one, however, has been the first one of the year that I am able to settle into myself because I have been consumed by the process of finding and starting a new job. Life inevitably keeps ticking over even if you have interviews to attend and presentations to nail the day job still needs to be done and to the highest standard.

So this morning I said bye to my brother who has been over from San Francisco and decided to finally watch the Netflix docuseries The Defiant Ones and Fyre - The greatest party that never happened, which I highly recommend.

But this week during #Powerandinfluence chat The Challenges of Public Sector Communications with Darren Caveney I promised that I would pen a broke comms girls guide to professional development and give an insight into what has helped me, so while I recover from the rugby let me start putting something together. If you take one thing away from this blog post, it is to have an idea of where you want to go with your career and take responsibility for making that happen. This is the first part, which is written for anyone who has zero budget to do anything.



  • Have a plan: In the last few years I have begun to think much more critically, and one of the things that has helped me do this is the blueprint I designed for myself of what success looks like for me. In my case, it’s been an evolving piece of work, but I have a notebook that I regularly visit and brain dump my vision onto. I then map out how I am going to get there craving out a roadmap. That way my energy is channelled in the right direction and focussed.

  • What problem are you trying to solve: Before you begin to think about what training and development you want to go on, start by mapping out what problem you are trying to solve for yourself and the organisation that you work for. There are many courses or books that I could pick, but I always ask how does this ultimately fit in strategically. For example, if you work in public sector communications, the biggest challenge in the sector is finding ways of making the communications function commercially viable and gaining real influence in the organisation, for someone with a digital role it is to prove the ROI of your online activities. One of the best pieces of advice I received going into my new position was, "understand why you have been hired, not what they want you to do but what problem are you there to solve from a strategic point of view".

  • Stay curious: There is an abundance of resources to read, listen and watch online and I will list as many free ones as I can. But a lot of it comes down to mindset and attitude. In a recent podcast Russell Grossman, Director of Communications at ORR summed it up quite well. The future directors and heads of communications will need to have a 360 view of everything. Just being interested in one aspect of the industry will keep you boxed in. Read reports to understand insights, business books to develop a strategic view, listen to podcasts that give you perspectives of what other sectors, businesses and practitioners are doing, dive into the data and understand the trends. I often find some great inspiration in reading award submissions, case studies by creative agencies and watching documentaries about the industry.

  • Ask for help and have questions: Social media has broken down a barrier that previously would have made it impossible to access certain C-Suite level individuals. At our fingertips, we now have some of the most influential people in the industry during a Twitter Chat or are able to send them a message via Linkedin without having to spend hours trying to figure out their company email which is probably bursting at the seams, so take advantage of this access. Having done all of the above you will know and understand much better what questions you are looking to get answers to. Never be ashamed or afraid to ask for help. While it may seem like there are people who know all there is to know about everything, we are all still learning with a child-like curiosity.

  • Build your tribe: Mentors are great, and I would suggest having them. But build a network of people around you who have your back, are able to be brutally honest with you, and bring something different. I have people who keep me grounded and check me, the ones who encourage me when I am in a dark place, the ones who push me outside of my comfort zone, the ones who open me up to new experiences and the ones who guide me on what is next. The community I have chosen to build around myself is based on respect, care, loyalty, honesty and a vested interest in each other. Having a Rolodex of names will only take you so far as opposed to authentic friendships.

    A few tips to getting the most out of mentoring sessions:

  • Come with a clear agenda. What do I need to think about / do/ learn in the next 3 – 9 months so that I see the change in the next year? What projects do I need to take on that will take me to the next level? What skills do I need to start developing, professional and personal?

  • Bring something to the table and show that you have made progress. There is probably nothing more frustrating than giving someone the same advice, steps and direction over and over again for them to ignore it but time and time again come back hoping you will have different advice.

  • Pave it forward and be of service.

Resources

Podcasts

Culture, Comms & Cocktails hosted by Chuck Gose

Engage for Success

Engage for Success Radio

Icology By Chuck Gose

Internal Comms Procast

The Talking Comms Podcast

The C-Suite Podcast

The Internal Comms Podcast

The Science of Social Media

Peppermint fish

Full list of podcasts I listen to visit.

My winter book list.

Websites

AllThingsIC

Comms2point0

Gatehouse

LG Comms

The IC Space

Alive with Ideas

Government Communications Service

Institute of Internal Communication

Learning Icology

Amanda Coleman

Deirdre Breakenridge

Ella Minty

Shane Snow

CIPR

AB Comms

IC Kollectif

Twitter Chats

#Powerandinfluence on Wednesday 8-9pm GMT hosted by Ella Minty

#CommsChat on Monday 8-9 pm GMT hosted by Communicate magazine

In the Arena

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat
— Theodore Roosevelt


I first heard Theodore Roosevelt's arena speech as it is referred to on Tim Ferris Podcast in his audacious interview with the scariest Navy seal imaginable, Jocko Willink. At the time and until now I always thought of it as something to read when someone who knows not of my struggles passes criticism without providing a tangible solution or adding value.  I was reminded of the quote this week when I read Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown. Although it had on my reading list for a while, I think I was avoiding it because it unearths my complex personal struggle with vulnerability, shame and disengagement. But if I'm going to be a better communicator and leader, then I have to be able to work on the things that lead me to hide away from having difficult conversations and confronting ugly truths and deal with vulnerabilities self-imposed or others. So thanks Advita for reminding me of it.

But thinking of the arena speech takes me back to all the conversations that can be summed up in our constant conflict as communicators, “Everyone thinks they can do comms.” Yes, everyone standing on the side-lines assumes that what we do is write a tweet or two, print a few posters and churn out the press releases. But I wonder whether they see the blood sweat and tears behind the scenes. So let's all give each other in the arena a pat on the back and embrace vulnerability. But let’s also make sure we aren’t a critic too judging ourselves harshly and holds on to toxic perfectionism.

 

aroma-beverage-breakfast-347144.jpg

I went to FutureNet’s Trailblazer event to get some insights into the fantastic triple awarding winning employee engagement campaign, Trailblazers by Kerry Foods. Jacqueline Ryan, Internal Communications and Employee Engagement Advisor at Kerry Foods, and FutureNet committee member shared great insights and here are my five key takeaways.

  • Employee engagement which is leader led has to be precisely that. People need to see and hear leadership at every stage in an authentic way. 

  • Be flexible and allow the campaign to flow. Sometimes the best-laid plans change, and that is fine.

  • Let the stories shine through.

  • User-generated content is the future as budgets gets tighter and communicating with hard to reach audiences becomes harder.

  • Recognise people for their courage and desire to take part. These are the things that cost nothing but mean so much to people and should be at the heart of the business values.

 

I managed to catch up with Jess, The Voracious Nomad who put me on the spot slightly and interviewed me for her podcast. We talked about professional development, storytelling, black tax and the future.  Doing this interview was entirely out of my comfort zone, and I usually would have said no but over the last year I have been saying yes more thanks to Shonda Rhimes. Listen to it here

 

Resources mentioned in the episode:

Who will be my Ellen?

Year of Yes- Shonda Rhimes

Born a Crime, Stories from a South African Childhood – Trevor Noah

Slay In Your Lane - Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené

Legacy – James Kerr

AllThingsIC

Comms2point0

The IC space

Alive with Ideas

Comms Unplugged  

#CommsChat

Power and Influence by Ella Minty

The Internal Comms Podcast with Katie Macaulay

Winter Book List

I have recently been asked a few times to update my book list. This is only about 7 months old so there will be many books missing as its not an extensive list of all the books I have read over the years. 

There is no friend as loyal as a book.
— Ernest Hemingway

Completed

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead - Brené Brown

The Icarus Deception – Seth Godin

Slay In Your Lane - Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené

Legacy – James Kerr

If you think of physical conditioning, technical understanding and tactical appreciation as forming three legs,’ Wayne Smith tells writer Gregor Paul, ‘the stool isn’t balanced unless you have psychological strength as well.
— James Kerr, Legacy

The last Black Unicorn – Tiffany Haddish

Linchpin: Are you Indispensable – Seth Godin

If I Could Tell You Just One Thing...: Encounters with Remarkable People and Their Most Valuable Advice – Richard Reed

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business-   Charles Duhigg

The Thank You Economy - Gary Vaynerchuk

Poke the Box – Seth Godin

Start with why – Simon Sinek

Crushing It – Gary Vaynerchuk

Any company that gets so complacent it thinks everything is “fine” deserves to go out of business—it literally means its leaders have stopped caring. A competitive company is always on the offense. Always. Always. Always.
— Gary Vaynerchuk, The Thank You Economy

Year of Yes- Shonda Rhimes

Born a Crime, Stories from a South African Childhood – Trevor Noah

Lean in: Women, work and the will to lead – Sheryl Sandberg

You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth – Jen Sincero

The Thank You Economy – Gary Vanyerchuck

We're Going to Need More Wine: Stories That Are Funny, Complicated, and True- Gabrielle Union

Your world is only as small as you make it.
— Gabrielle Union, We're Going to Need More Wine

In Progress

Becoming – Michelle Obama

Beyond the Babble: Leadership Communication that Drives Results - Bob Matha and Macy Boehm

Principles – Ray Daillio

Man’s Search for meaning – Viktor E.Frankl

Shoe Dog – Phil Knight

There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others
— Becoming – Michelle Obama

Queued

Thinking, Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman

Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson

Yes, My Accent is Real – Kunal Nayyar

Girl, Wash Your Face – Rachel Hollis

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups - Daniel Coyle

The Barcelona Way: How to Create a High-performance Culture -  Damian Hughes

Way of the Wolf: Straight line selling: Master the art of persuasion, influence, and success - Jordan Belfort

This is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn To See -  Seth Godin

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts - Brené Brown

Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't -Simon Sinek

Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution - Walter Isaacson

The Storyteller's Secret : How TED Speakers and Inspirational Leaders Turn Their Passion into Performance - Carmine Gallo

The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World's Top Minds - Carmine Gallo

The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F – Mark Manson

The Real McCaw: The Autobiography

Dan Carter: The Autobiography of an All Blacks Legend

What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School - Mark H. McCormack

 

Do you have any recommendations for me?




Thank You, Next

It is a possibility that the marketing team at Republic never sketched me out as a persona when they were curating Ariana Grande’s target customer but, I’m sold so that conversion was easy.

There is a relief that comes over you when you see your flaws, victories and struggles in someone else’s story.

I teared up when I heard Ariana’s acceptance speech at Billboard’s Women in Music Awards, so much of what she said resonated with me. People look at you and think, oh wow she has it all together, over there living her best life. But some of us are out in these streets singing Breathin and Thank You, Next.

Comms+Over+Coffee+Thank+you+next.jpg


I’ve loved and lost romantically and professionally. Giving myself unconditionally often with an intense amount of sacrifice. I have worked hard on projects and had them quashed at the last minute with no explanation, but I have also been given awards for my work. I have an incredible media and public relations network that spans almost 10 years, and I have been the victim of the most horrific workplace bullying. I’ve fallen in love with a job only to be rejected at the final interview stage and had some incredible pinch yourself speechless, OMG moments over my career.

Through each experience, I have learnt something different about myself as a person and a storyteller. The job where I was going through the motions taught me that there was something more for me, the global organisation reminded me that there is a big wide world full of opportunities, and the list goes on.

So here I am in the limbo week dancing to Ariana in my pyjamas, which sums up quite well what this year has been about. Being re-introduced to Harriet, who she is and what she is really capable of, but also taking the time to concentrate on developing my career, courage and grabbing the opportunities that I’m given.

I know that we all have to live our lives with a degree of caution but what is your Thank You, Next for 2018. That thing you’re grateful for teaching you a lesson, but it needs to stay in the past because you are on a new journey. For me, as a communications professional it is this notion that “we are just, comms”. We are an integral part of the business and if you empower or allow us to do our work we deliver and can support the company to solve problems where good communications are critical.

So what is your professional or personal, Thank You, Next for 2018? 

Learning from failure

As I sip my Sunday coffee I ’m reflecting on something surreal that happened this week.



I am a finalist for an industry award for the first time. Scary.

A campaign I developed, ran and managed made the finalist list of the 2018 UK & European Employee Engagement Awards in the Internal Communications category.

As someone who never wins anything, I didn’t know how to feel. When I was completing the submission, it took me a while to believe that my work was worthy of being entered. But thankfully the deadline coincided with Public Service Communications Academy 2018, so I was surrounded by my incredible network who gave me the extra push I needed and our Head of Communications was there every step of the way to help me.

Whether we win the award or not in January, I have already won. I have turned a failure into a career-defining moment.


It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.

J. K. Rowling

 

In April I went through an interview process for an internal communications role at a housing association. Failing to get through to the next stage was hard, but I understood that I had to develop my understanding of communicating with internal audiences better and have real tangible examples of my work. Maybe it was fate but once I decided to learn, things started coming my way that allowed me to increase my knowledge of internal communications and employee engagement. I developed the ‘Be Epic’ campaign for our IT service delivery team which is the shortlisted project and support a number of our services internally with their messaging. I also met Rachel Miller Director of AllthingsIC, the industry guru who has since taught me some invaluable lessons.

I have plugged in more with our corporate change manager who regularly shares her insights from a change management perspective, and we now work on more assignments together. 

The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.

 Henry Ford


What have I learnt over the last six months from this failure?

  • The proof is in the pudding.

  • Find or create my own opportunities to develop the skills that I need because nobody is going to do it for me.

  • How to measure effectively and be dynamic.

  • To have the courage to get out of my comfort zone.

  • I may fail again, and that is okay. In fact it is what I need to grow.

If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.

Ken Robinson

  • I have to trust my gut.

  • How to design and execute an award-worthy internal communications campaign at zero cost that solves a business problem.

  • How to prioritise as a business stakeholder.   

  • Develop a stronger network of professionals working across various discipline of communications and industries.

 

Some of the great resources that have helped me develop my internal communications skills.

AllThingsIC

Comms2point0

Gatehouse

LG Comms

The IC space

Institute of Internal Communication   

 

I also have a couple of submissions in the Unawards and the shortlist is out on Thursday 14 November, so fingers crossed. But in the meantime, what are you waiting for the unawards18 public vote is open

You have a tough, tough challenge now to select the winners from three important categories:

Lifetime Achievement

Comms Team of the Year

Best Guest Post of 2018

You can cast your votes HERE

The public vote closes on 26 November (midnight)

See you in Birmingham for the Unawards on Friday 7 December

Ask Better Questions

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If there were no restrictions on my life, self-imposed or otherwise what would I do?

Since asking myself that question seven months ago, my life has changed in a way I struggle to put into words. While I am having one of the best years of my life with many un-forgetful moments. I am in the same breath being the bravest I have ever been, all because I question the barriers that have stopped me in the past. This change can be rooted in my choosing to ask of myself something different and challenging.

I sat down in the café in Clapham and even though I was scared out of my mind, I took out that pen, and in that leather, notebook scripted the life I want, deserve and am going to hustle for.

It frightened me, but I was the only who could change the blueprint. It was no longer enough to say I have goals. I had to use my imagination to design something that way beyond what I thought was possible. I changed the questions, I asked myself, the world, my industry and those closest to me. I’ve had to ask better questions. I’ve had to be courageous enough to seek answers. What is stopping me from being a great communications strategist?  When am I going to create and execute an award-winning campaign? What is my story? What do I bring to the table that nobody else does?

Deciding what kind of career I wanted as a communicator meant that I've had to analyse everything that I did. From which events I attended, books I read, courses I took, mentors I sought, projects I accepted, and my attitude towards work. A month ago, at Comms Unplugged, Sam Hodges, Head of Communications at Twitter UK, said something that cemented these thoughts for me.

What skills do you need to be more strategic?

For me, it means looking at the list and thinking, ah. How do I figure this out and start to develop in a particular area? But I have to be brave and think outside the box because there will be some skills that are just impossible to develop in my current role. How do I then find ways of improving them while still excelling in my current role?

On this pursuit I came across Vishen Lakhiani and began to understand how he uses questions to explore goal setting. He essentailly asks three questions. I’ve found this really helpful.  

What experiences do I want to have?  

How do I need to grow?

What contribution do I make to the world?  

I hope this helps someone who is thinking about change in any area.

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Mourning Olivia Pope

For 6 years Shonda Rhimes gave me a gift that I'm forever in her debt for. She dived into her imagination and brought to life, my hero. Olivia Pope is my mentor from afar. So when she strutted off down the mall I mourned. Despite her dysfunctional relationships and her flaws the career lessons, I drew from her have shaped me and given me an ambiton I never thought I would be brave enough to puruse. 

 

1. Network

Olivia's break came when she worked as Fitz’s campaign manager a job she got because of her relationship with Cyrus and Verna. Your network is truly your net worth and the people you know give you access to closed doors people more talented can't even peek into. Get on apps like Meetup and Eventbrite, to find out where your industry events are. Use social media to create an enviable phonebook. Use LinkedIn to reach out to people.

 

2. Be better

"I am many things, stupid is not one of them."

Learn, read and then learn and read again. Practice and then learn again. I know it sounds harsh but the reality is hustle and hard work take you further.  Ask better questions. 

You have to be twice as good as them to get half of what they have -Eli Pope.

 

3. Trust your gut

What has your gut told you lately? I recently turned a job with a prestigious charity because my gut feeling was off. Develop a way to listen to instincts and hone in on what your inner self is saying. Ultimately when you live by your resolve you will have much more peace.

"My gut tells me everything I need to know."

 

4. Confidence 

The balls on the gladiators was epic. The Mantras would leave you in awe. It oozed confidence. Walk into a room and have a presence with substance. Whether that means listening to a song or giving yourself a mental pep talk. Find your strength and breakdown those barriers in your mind. 

"Some people have bark, some people have bite. I have both."

 

5. Collaborate

The partnership that had the biggest impact on me was with Lawyer Professor Annalise Keating. Olivia always came together and worked with other people whether it was for good or evil, collaboration was her thing. Despite being an incredible woman Olivia knew that a good team around her was her strength and she made sure her gladiators were taken care of, well sort of most of the time. If you can achieve your dreams alone then they aren't big enough. 

 

6. Make it mean something.

Wear your white hat, wave your freedom flag and wear your pink ribbon. Whatever your thing is let it mean something, volunteer, and if you are the world's busiest person donate.  Live a good life, be kind to the planet and Give something back. Plant seeds in gardens you will never walk in or admire their flowers of.

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7. Take initiative 

When Fitz and his press sectary were shot, Olivia stood up and addressed a press conference. She took on a role that wasn't hers. In fact, I’m struggling to think of a time when she failed to step up to the plate without waiting to be asked. 

 

8. Have ambition

Despite setting up Pope & Associates, very successfully I might add she left to work at the White House. The world we live in has changed, careers are winding roads and nothing is off limits. Don't be afraid to pivot, re-train, step out or start the side gig. In fact, if you look at the career path of all the gladiator's each one of them has had a stellar career. 

 

9. Be strategic Olivia Pope is one of the most effective communications professionals I've ever watched. She maximised the power of storytelling to get the message across, she knew her power to win elections and get laws changed. 

"I am very good at what I do. I am better at it than anyone else. And that is not arrogance that is a fact."

 

10. Unwind  

I'm a fan girl with my oversized wine glass. Find what allows you to decompress

Swimming laps, dancing or running whatever it was Olivia had a way to have fun zone out. We all need that time of reflection.

 

 

“You are a gladiator. Gladiators don’t run, they fight, they slay dragons, they wipe off the blood, they stitch up their wounds, and they live to fight another day”

 

 

Shaping My Future

3 months ago I walked out of a 5-star London hotel a changed woman. 

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Marie Claire Future Shapers Live was the crucial piece of the puzzle that I needed to add my jigsaw to bring my vision to life. Spending the day hearing from strong, creative, inspiring, courageous and industrious women made me not only see myself and my capabilities in a different way but it reignited the longing I’ve had to find my tribe. 

There are times when you think of an idea or a concept but wonder am I the only one who thinks like this? Is it just me who wants this? Are there other women who struggle with imposter syndrome the same way I do? 

Meeting women who have the same fears I do but have made it. Speaking to women who struggle with the same lack of resources or shortcomings that I do was empowering and it spurred me to change and execute. Not just talk about what I want to actually do but put in the work. 


I'm cultivating my 'why'. Aimee Bateman talked passionately about finding your driving force and hone in what motivates you. 

I am developing my personal brand in my industry and outside of it. I have a strategy for my social media, have identified what I want to be known for and am developing my USP.

Someone once described me as courageous and it was the biggest compliment I’ve ever been given. You don’t have to be born with courage. If you want it, you can have it.
— Victoria Pendleton

I am finding my courage by doing the things that scare me. Whether that be doing a public speaking event this summer to taking on projects at work that are outside my comfort zone to running a Twitter chat with communicate Magazine or creating this Comms Over Coffee which was an accident that came as result of doing something brave. 
  
Although I haven’t yet figured out what my side hustle is, I am open to the idea. I understand that there is a space for me to make money alongside my current job and that there is a freedom in experimenting with this. 
 

Be emotional. Be exactly who you are, and if people don’t like it, they’re not your tribe. What three words do you want people to use to describe you? That’s your brand.
— Aimee Bateman

I have changed the way I network and am building my tribe. I give back to my industry and am actively putting myself in a position where I can find and build my tribe. 

I am harnessing my individuality and I know it is okay to be who I am because I have value to add being myself. I have taken my extreme curiosity and love for learning to the next level. Experimenting with content creation, exploring marketing concepts, diving deeper into digital media and reading books that I would never have considers in the past such as Seth Godin's The Icarus Deception.

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I need me time to think, reflect and rest.  I will often go out to a coffee shop with a notebook and just write. I go for the Bruno Mars and Ed Sheeran gig because we all need to enjoy ourselves. 

 

It’s not about pulling the ladder up behind you, it’s about trying to let down lots of ladders to give other women a leg up too.
— Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP

 

I am in a privileged position. I have a responsibility to the generation behind me whether that be through my work or how I give back to leave the world a better place than what it is now.

 

 

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The easy way to build a personal brand for success

I recently did a talk and panel at Wework South Bank called The easy way to build a personal brand for Outreach Digital a group that I volunteer for, and that is actively developing the digital and marketing community in London. 

My top tips

  • Spend time designing your life and honing your vision
  • Find your unique selling point
  • You can do it with zero
  • Bring authenticity to your networking  
  • Just start  

I hope the resources, books, podcasts, websites and information I provide in this  Presentation help you. 

 

 

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16 Personalities

At first, I thought it was a fluke. That maybe if I did a few times over the results would change but no such luck.  The 16 Personalities test results are in and they reveal my personality type is, 'The Protagonist ENFJ-A'. Sounds really interesting, doesn't it? I have the same trait as President Barrack Obama, Oprah and believe it or not Daenerys Targaryen.  So what does this mean for me a communicator and public relations professional? 

ENFJs are natural-born leaders, full of passion and charisma. They are able to bring these ideas together and communicate them as a common goal with an eloquence that is nothing short of mesmerizing.

It has helped me understand what my strengths are. I am tolerant, reliable, charismatic, altruistic and a natural leader. 

My careers choices are based on doing what I love, meaningful, creative and honest work. I am good at working independently and have a desire to learn and grow. 

The best part of the test is that my perfect professions were identified as Public relations specialist, consultant, editor, creative writer, web designer, public speaker, and an educationist. 

Going forward I will seek opportunities that allow me to maximize my strengths and develop my emotional intelligence.

People with the Protagonist personality type are always up for a good challenge – and nothing thrills them quite like helping others. But while willing to train the necessary skills, Protagonists will always show an underlying preference for the sort of help that draws a positive long-term trend, that effects change that really sticks.

It takes less that 12 minutes to complete the test, that I can guardnetee you.