Our cakes in the north

Great venue!

I had a great day at CommsCampNorth yesterday and got to wheel out the new Satori Lab banner.

I pitched a session asking whether comms teams are helping or hindering organisations moving from being siloed, machine-model institutions to being open, networked, flat ecosystems.

Despite this several people came and, broadly speaking, saw a role for communications professionals in the future.

One of the things that emerged for me from this discussion was the way we are hindered by our mental models. What would a hypothetical open, networked, local authority look like? We talked about bees, we talked about ecosystems and these have some value as metaphors but they are also limited.

There probably is a role for skilled communications professionals in a networked organisation but I don’t think it looks much like the role many comms professionals occupy now.

And this relates to a recurring theme (in the discussions I was in) of dealing with demands on comms resources when those resources are themselves diminishing.

“Learn to say no” was the repeatedly offered solution.

I don’t think that’s right. I think the solution is to make better use of the network.

For example, we heard of one comms team where they have clear strategic priorities. So when non-priority services want help they have to, well, say no.

Saying no isn’t much fun (on either side) and it runs the risk of breaking connections in the organisation.

Much more enjoyable, positive and productive would be to build the strength of the network to provide that support. There must be other non-priority services, can they work together. Perhaps central comms could provide advice and support to a group of non-priority service areas without doing the work for them.

The comms function (should there be one) in the hypothetical networked local authority would be one that worked across the organisation to help communications, engagement and marketing to emerge from the network.

I don’t think we can start that process soon enough.

I also went to some great sessions pitched by others:

  • using evidence is a good idea! (did someone say Data Maturity models? (yes- I did))
  • making scary change less scary (did we talk about the connected age? (yes, yes I did))
  • time management, prioritisation and showing people how busy we are (did someone say Kanban? (what do you think?))
  • we need to talk about transformation — in which we learned that there are some interesting examples of workplace design happening in the public sector

Thanks to the organisers, volunteers and, crucially, the immensely talented comms professionals who attended.