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Opinion: Comms Hero Bristol is coming

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Opinion: Comms Hero Bristol is coming

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities

Opinion: A different kind of housing conference Opinion: A different kind of housing conference

By Faye Galvin, communications manager at Merlin Housing Society.

I’m a firm believer (unsurprisingly) that what I do is vital. Great communications are the grease to an organisation’s wheels.

They facilitate engagement, which in turn has a proven knock on effect on staff morale, customer service and the bottom line. So when I was approached to chair Comms Hero in Bristol, I jumped at the chance – especially when I saw the speaker lineup. Because this time, it’s serious.

I don’t mean that the best series of not-for-profit, communication un-conferences in the country has ditched the comic book graphics and capes and gone all suits and ties and earnest handouts - one of the strengths of this event is that it is a celebration of all things comms and the work that we do, and it does that (as well as delivering best practice tips and techniques and inspiration) in a truly creative and fun way. It’s by the comms people, for the comms people.

No, what I mean is that the lineup of speakers for the October 7th event is looking like it might provide an answer to a conundrum most comms people wrestle with on a regular basis: how do we get the people at the top of our organisations to recognise just how important, how intrinsic to success, well thought out and well executed communication is? And how do we get them to understand what that actually means in the first place?

The second part of that question is easier to answer. Great communication can’t be about jumping on the latest comms channel bandwagon (remember the craze for tenants handbooks on DVD a few years ago?) On the day, Luan Wise @luanwise will lead a session on why we shouldn’t let social media totally replace face to face interactions, because personality, that most vital thing to really making a connection with your audience, can easily be lost when conversation becomes correspondence.

But it’s also not about sticking your head in the sand and ignoring amazing tools like Facebook, Twitter and Vine – I still hear from colleagues facing a daily battle with their senior teams who insist that they should sign off tweets and posts, let alone those who have had to put a business case together to even be allowed to access Facebook at work so they can see what their customers are saying! Social media guru Helen Reynolds (@helreynolds) will be at the event discussing how Twitter can turn comms doers into comms leaders.

And in these digital days, front line staff might be part-time marketeers but your CEO and senior team need to be living your brand 24-7, so digital storyteller John Popham (@johnpopham) will talk about how, in this age of social media – we are all advertisers. Finally, if you needed any more of a steer on what great PR looks like, the legend [sic] that is 24housing’s very own Brian Church will be leading a session on his guide to good PR.

But it’s the first part of the question that’s tricksy. We all want a place at the top table (ideally, behind the biggest chair, whispering into the ear of its occupant) but it can be difficult to achieve. It’s a rare CEO, Director or Senior Manager who thinks about communication as one of the first things that needs nailing at the start of a project or programme of work, and it can be rarer still to find one who turns to the experts willingly when they have an important corporate message to shape, because communication is easy – we all do it every day, don’t we?

It’s this attitude that makes those conversations with someone more senior, in which you need to point out how  the long winded email they just sent to all users probably wasn’t the best way to get that vital piece of information across, all the more difficult. With that in mind, any hints that Antony Tiernan (@antonytiernan), Director of Corporate Affairs and Communications at NHS Trusts can give in his session on how to get communications on the agenda and in front of the people that matter will be vital, as will and Muir Group’s Head of Communications Kathryn Smith’s (@KathrynS_Muir) session on how to make marketing top of your CEOs agenda.

Weighty matters to ponder indeed. But given that this is CommsHero, you can be sure it will be done with a smile and a tweet, and that the people who attend will come away a little closer to some of the answers.

Will that be you?

Comms Hero Bristol is running from 8.30 – 16.30 on Tuesday 7th October, Hamilton House, Bristol BS1 3QY. You can find more details at commshero.com

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