On reflection

The last year for me was one of change. I started it by reducing my hours to four days a week to balance my work and family life. This technically means I’m part-time, although it doesn’t feel like it.

The year ended with a new job. Inevitably, my local authority comms team was restructured and in December I started a new role. Same job description but a broader remit and more responsibility, effectively leading on external PR and marketing for the council and managing four people.

The step up to management was something I’d been seeking for a while (I’ve also completed hugely helpful in-house leadership and team coaching courses), so it was great to finish 2015 as leader of a small team with a fresh set of challenges ahead of us. It’s also a bit scary.

Reflecting on the year just gone, there are also regrets. I spent too much of the earlier part of the year navel-gazing about what communications is and how it needed to change, particularly in the public sector and my own organisation. I wasn’t alone. It was something of an epidemic and my last post sounded off about comms’ problem being one of thinking too much about what it should be doing and not enough just f***ing doing it.

As well as being someone who harbours regrets, I am also one who makes new year’s resolutions and – predictably – fails to keep them. In 2015, it was to read more fiction. I read one novel, one book of short stories and three comms/business-related books.

My new mission for 2016, then, is to turn talk into action. And to bloody well do it. The thing is, this time I have to.

My biggest frustration about comms, PR and marketing bloggers and commentators – with some notable exceptions – is that they say too much about what’s wrong or what, in general, we should be doing but don’t set out practical, replicable examples of how.

What I aim to crack and, if I’m successful or not, write about here is the perennial nut of managing our communications workflow. By this I mean how we work on a campaign, project or activity end-to-end. For my own team, that means shifting our way of operating from single, loosely connected and poorly evaluated activities to a properly insight-led, outcome-based model of communcations.

This means finally achieving the long-talked-about, only partially-realised shift of our day-to-day way of working from reactive, media-led SOS (sending out stuff) to ROSIE, OASIS or whatever is the acronym du jour.

One of the big things in this for me is managing demand with a reduced resource. We must be better at saying ‘no’, pushing back and giving colleagues the permission, skills and tools to communicate better for themselves. The latter is going to need some time and effort spent on it but needs to be done.

I am also determined that we remodel our way of thinking and doing to be better project managers and properly agile in the way that digital teams and Japanese companies have been doing for years. It’s clear to me we’re behind on this – there’s still too much churning out of unevidenced, unmeasured ‘stuff’ and not enough focus on the essential end outcome.

In our team, we are trying out different web-based tools, including Trello and, moreso, Asana. The latter I feel could help us unlock something vital to help us take a clear and focussed view of what we need to achieve and how we are doing it. I plan to share my experiences with Asana and other tools out there, such as those catalogued in the brilliant PRstack website and e-books.

It’s time to do it. In a year’s time, if I haven’t, you have my permission to slap me.

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