Posted: July 17, 2016 Filed under: communications, Uncategorized | Tags: #commscamp, commscamp15, how to organise an unconference, how to run an unconference, how to stage an unconference, unconference
My favourite day of the year from a professional point of view is one where I earn no money and work like a Trojan with others to make happen.
Commscamp has been staged for the past four years in Birmingham and brings 180 largely public sector comms people together.
It’s an unconference which means that the agenda is decided on the day.
But aside from the conversation, ideas and connections from the day the best thing was hearing some people also want to stage an unconference too. There may be one. There may be two. Who knows? Fantastic. I really hope they do it.
The basics about unconferences I learned from Dave Briggs, Steph Gray and Lloyd Davies. All wonderful people. We staged unconferences because we’d been to a few and fancied having a go ourselves. John Peel used to say punk made it easy. All you had to do was push over a telephone box and sell your brother’s motorbike and you had enough money for a demo. It’s not that different with an unconference.
So here are a few tips.
- No-one owns it. Lloyd is quite right in saying that unconferences are not owned by anyone. So have a go.
- Find some likeminded people.
- Just book some space.
- Put up an eventbrite to distribute the tickets.
- Scrape together a smidge of sponsorship and UKGovcamp can help with that.
- Shout about it.
- On the day relax and have fun.
- That’s it.
- That’s really it.
See? It’s that simple.
I’d also be tempted to do it slightly seperate with what you are doing at work. So, it’s not the day job. But it’s a seperate thing helps the day job. That way you get all the fun stuff but none of the middle manager barriers.
One absolute true-ism from Lloyd is that everyone who goes tends to to love them. But then would like to make a minor change. ‘It was great, but if only we could pre-plan the sessions, that would be marvellous.’ Or whatever the suggestion is.
Keep it simple.
Just have some space. A Facebook group works to get people thinking about sessions beforehand. Decide what you are going to talk about on the day. Then give the thing to the people in the room and they will always, always, always deliver.
Picture credit: Sasha Taylor / Flickr
Posted: July 8, 2016 Filed under: communications, Uncategorized | Tags: #commscamp, brexit, commscamp16, government communications, unconference
It’s happening again, I can feel it.
I wasn’t sure if the magic would return somehow but it feels as though it has already.
The magic is Commscamp. It’s a sort of magic that happens once a year when 150 people come together determined to make brighter ideas.
What makes the magic? People who give a damn and want to do things better. People who want to help see that too. And people who like cake. Definitely, people who like cake.
The truth is it also feels like there’s never been a more important time for an event like commscamp. It feels as though it is really needed this year. Against the backdrop of Brexit, cuts and rapid change there is a need for people to come together compare notes and work things out.
The phrase that runs through what I’ve done over the past seven or eight years is ‘militant optimism.’ At its heart is a resolve to do things better despite everything
At times, optimism takes a battering. A change of boss. Cuts. More cuts. Brexit. Change. New platforms. Keeping pace. The firm request for a back of bus ad you have to push back on. The easier thing would be to throw in the towel.
Why I think the magic is back
Planning an event like this is easier the more you do it. Writing emails to printers at 11pm when you haven’t seen your family all day is not ‘fun.’
But one moment this week made me think the magic was back. Late night I was looking down the session idea pitches in the Commscamp Facebook group.
- Income generation. How do we?
- Live streaming video. How should we?
- If everyone is a comms expert how do I make my professional advice heard?
- How can you stay politically restricted and still have a voice?
- How can I put a cat amongst the pigeons?
- Coping with guilt and reality post-cuts.
- Virtual reality video: a beginners guide.
- A cathartic session just to let rip a bit.
I want to go to them all. Reading them I was reminded why I love it. And I looked at the list of people who want to volunteer to make that happen.
If you can’t come you can still play a part
There’s a limited amount of room and we know that not everyone who wants to come can come. We’ll look to livestream some sessions, post to Twitter on the #commscamp16 hashtag and blog. If you are out of the room we’ll try and find a way you can catch-up.
But one thing makes it worthwhile
If there is one issue that makes commscamp this year really worth it for me it’s Brexit and how we cope with it. I’ve got this strong sense that there’s a strong sense of uncertainty that we would do well to tackle.
It would be great if we could tackle that together.
It feels like the magic is back.
Let’s make it so, shall we?
Commscamp is staged in Birmingham on Thursday July 14. Tickets are sold out.
Picture credit: Ann Kempster / Flickr
Posted: July 1, 2016 Filed under: communications, Uncategorized | Tags: #wearehere, communications, First World War, history, somme
I’m writing this on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.
Just a week before the UK voted to leave the European Union. Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to stay. A majority in England and Wales wanted to go.
Division, spite and rancour is in the air.
Yet, for all sides, the First World casts a long across Britain. It helped make the country we live in. Never such innocence, as Siegfried Sassoon wrote, as when we marched to war in 1914. Never such shattered innocence as the first day of the Battle of the Somme. If there was a day when modern Britain was born it was this.
I’m writing this to capture the #wearehere project. At key railway stations across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland volunteers dressed in First World War battledress appeared. Talk to them and they quietly give you a card with the name of a soldier who was killed on this day a hundred years ago.
It’s a gentle reminder that those who were lost were people too. Just like you. It’s beautiful. I’ve blogged about my own family’s First World War story and the pain it caused.
As a child, a teacher taught us how much the First World War had changed Britain not with numbers. He pulled three empty chairs to the front of the classroom.
“Those chairs,” he said, “are empty. But they would have had three children just like you sat on them. But they weren’t born because their grandfathers were killed in the First World War.”
I seem to spend a lot of time telling people in training that the key to good communication is to be human. It’s why #wearehere works. It’s a real thing with real people. And the real people who saw it and were moved shared images and thoughts online.
I don’t know who is behind the project, but thank you for a chance to say ‘thank you’ to the 704,803 who died like cattle to show us that modern war was something to avoid.
But thank you too for a reminder that we are all human.
Posted: June 26, 2016 Filed under: Uncategorized
You may be happy with the EU Referendum result or you may be devastated. Either way this will change things for you as a comms or PR person.
You may find your job under threat or you may find your job disappeared. You may find a new post created as a result of it.
The truth is that it’s too early to tell how this is going to play out.
In the immediate aftermath, talking with Mrs Slee this morning I was reminded by the line from Robert Phillips’ book ‘Trust Me: PR is Dead.’ It is simply this:
The line troubled me slightly and when we staged an event with him in Birmingham a while back I asked him what he meant.
He just meant that everything is uncertain. Everything is changing. The internet has undermined many certainties and created new ones. Accept it and try and work with it. It’s advice we’ve repeated to teams several times. To embrace the chaos of change in the comms landscape is to realise that new skills are needed and to know that nothing is fixed.
It’s a bold line.
You are free to disregard it.
But Adam Buxton, the comedian, writer and actor, said that good ideas keep coming back and re-presenting themselves. Bad ones don’t. That line keeps returning for me.
But change could take shape in different ways.
Many comms people in the public sector are in ‘politically restricted’ posts. In layman’s terms that means that they are able to be members of a political party but they can’ty express public positions or campaign. This is how it should be. After eight years of this in local government it made life much easier.
But sitting on your hands and shouting at the telly can be difficult. I know this. I’m pitching a session at commscamp on July 14 to let public sector talk about this in a safe space. If you are going do come along.
Ripping up your plans
There’s every chance your best laid plans could be in tatters. The organisation’s business objectives could have taken an overnight lurch somewhere new. As difficult as this sounds, this is a chance to put your foot in the door to help shape whatever new comes. Review what you do.
Be straight, a cut is a cut
There’s a conversation that I had with someone who knows someone who processes EU grants for community groups. The liklihood is they will be at best under threat. But just as austerity has led to services stopping I’d counsel to steer clear of weasel-words like ‘efficiencies.’ A cut is a cut. If it’s stopping, say so.But do it factually and without finger pointing.
Know what you can and can’t say
With a new landscape, there’s a chance people in the public sector will be under renewed pressure to say more than they can. The easy answer is don’t. But be prapared. Check your constitution to see what you are allowed to say. Check the document that governs what you do. Have those relevant passages cut, pasted, saved and circulated.
Don’t stop learning, you
I’ve banged on about the pace of change for a long time and the need to learn new things to keep your skills honed. The impact of the EU Referendum hasn’t slowed this down. If anything it’s made the need quicken.
Be excellent to each other
I’ve been reminded in my timeline that many people are feeling worried. Sometimes this has been fear of the unknown. Sometimes, almost unbelievably, this has been abuse in the streets. Thios may sound like vaguely hippy wisdom but the need to be excellent to each other has never been greater.
Look after yourself.
Picture credit: Christoph G / Flickr