All posts by Dan Slee

Blog – How to create a successful approach to creativity

Content from our lovely SUPER GOLD sponsors

by Scott Hingley, creative director at Touch Design

The brief: Develop a communications campaign targeting young teens in communities who would not traditionally consider careers in medicine to persuade them to learn and train to become doctors.

The campaign: Well, what would you do? What would your campaign be? How would you go about the creative process of sparking such a campaign into life?

Creativity can be an elusive and ethereal concept. Sometimes when you’re in the flow, the ideas come as quickly as cars on a motorway. But on other occasions, you’re stuck at the services, with the bonnet up, exasperated, staring at the engine for signs of life.

But there can be ways to fire up the spark plugs of creativity – and in this blog we detail some helpful hints for taking you along on the journey of creativity.

Top tips

Before our top tips, we’ll briefly mention our campaign. From thinking about doctors, we naturally thought of Doctor Who, the classic inter-galactic time traveller, a figure appealing to youngsters and adults alike. The object of the campaign was to say to every young person, have you considered a career in medicine, and if not, why not? There are many pre-conceptions about what is involved and what is needed. The campaign needed to say that the next doctor in training could be you. Doctor You? A play on words, opening up medicine to all. We then removed the question mark. It felt like there was an element of doubt. And there we had it. Dr You. The campaign creative hook was in place.

Channel your thinking

You may well have a similar communications campaign challenge. If so, here are some thoughts to help you with your creative thinking:

  • The creative process is aided by a good brief – if you are the client, try to provide as much relevant background information as possible
  • Consider the ‘framing’ of the issue – thinking about the issue as a problem to be solved may be one way. But all issues can be considered in different lights. Is there another way of looking at your problem?
  • Come at the issue from a different angle – place your issue in another context – what would happen if you wildly exaggerated it, what would a child think of your issue, how would it work in the countryside, what if it was coloured orange, could you build a Lego model of it? All of these approaches will help you gain different perspectives
  • Play with an issue – and have fun. Here at Touch we like to have fun with our work. What are your first reactions to the topic? How does it make you feel? What makes you smile?
  • Close the door and open another – there’s only so long you can play around with a certain idea. At some point you’ve got to close the door on that idea, walk down the hallway, and open another door, to another idea. Open and close enough doors and you will discover a room of surprises
  • Take different approaches, put yourself in a new context – sometimes the best idea will come when you least expect it – when you’re in the shower or walking to work, from out of the blue inspiration will strike. If you’re still waiting for inspiration, put some dedicated time and effort into it. A cake will only come out of the oven if you put the right ingredients in the tin. Creativity sometimes needs a recipe
  • You may not have the solution – sometimes despite the best efforts and the most dedicated thought, you may not find the answer you want. That happens, it’s just the way things are. However, you are not alone. Ask the person across the desk. Phone a friend. Ask a stranger. Form a focus group. Listen carefully. The answer is out there.
  • Still stuck? Leave the office, get some fresh air, come back, then give us a call or email scott@touchdesign.co.uk. We’d love to talk through your ideas. www.touchdesign.co.uk

Scott from Touch Design will take part in a free open online workshop in the commscamp Facebook group from 12.30pm on Wednesday September 15.

CommsCamp is still at home … and so it’s time for a quiz and takeaway curry the night before it all kicks off

by Kate Vogelsang

Every year we hold #CommsCamp, we have a curry night. Beers and baltis in Birmingham, Bradford, Salford, Sheffield or on your sofa, as we did in 2020.

Anyone who has a ticket to either day of CommsCamp is welcome to join us on Tuesday 21 September at 7pm. It’s a chance to catch up with old friends, make some new ones, and take part in the not-quite-legendary quiz.

As last year we’re doing the whole thing virtually so it’ll also be a chance to see the tech set-up we’re using before CommsCamp kicks off, although I’m sure you’re all rather used to using Zoom by now!

What’s occurring?

Whilst the football didn’t come home this year (for those of us in England at least), the curry will. So, order yourself a takeaway (or if you want to show off your cooking skills, knock something up in your kitchen), grab yourself a drink and join us on Zoom at 7pm. The link will be sent out to you nearer the event time so you can join the social.

When your curry arrives, take a picture of your dinner for social media and share what you have online using the #commscampstillathome hash tag; we want to see colour, size, volume and variety, and find out where to get the best curry across the comms camp family.

Is there a quiz this year?
Yes, of course there is, kicking off at 8pm after we’ve all finished our curries. You’ll need pen and paper and a knowledge of random topics. Emma Johnson from Essex County Council won last year. Who will be wearing the crown this year?

As ever, if you can’t come to the event and you have a ticket do cancel it so we can re-distribute it to the waitlist. If you’d like see some of the pitch ideas for what we could discuss head to the commscamp Facebook page.

FIRE UP THOSE OVENS: BAKING FOR COMMSCAMP STILL AT HOME

Pic: Kelly Quigley-Hicks

by Kate Bentham

It’s CommsCamp soon and of course that means we’re upping our obsession with cake.

You see it’s tradition that whether CommsCamp is taking place in its homeland of Birmingham, or visiting Manchester, Sheffield, or Doncaster, or even for that matter happening in your home or your socially distanced office, that cake features heavily.

And who are we to argue with tradition?

So, cake fans, here’s what’s happening this year

The cake baking competition is still on. Yay. Could you be this year’s Star Baker and winner of the wooden spoon? We are having a cake baking contest on both days and ask our bakers to send a photo of their wonderful cake creations to katyjay@hotmail.com by 9pm the night before the CommsCamp they are attending. We will then ask our lovely attendees to vote, and winners will be announced at the end of each day.

We all still need to make sure we have some cake to eat. The fact of the matter is that anyone who has attended a CommsCamp in previous years would have left feeling sick from the amount of cake they consumed during the day, but them’s the rules. We still want people to connect over a slice of lemon drizzle and there will be plenty of opportunities to join others in shared break out spaces to chat, so make sure you have some cake to hand.

We are still raising money for charity. At CommsCamp we ask those that can, to donate a few pennies for a slice of cake. This money then goes to a chosen charity. Since CommsCamp first started in 2013 the lovely attendees have raised nearly £3,000. This year the chosen charity is The Christie and you can read a very personal story from Emma Rodgers  on what this charity means to her and her family. You can start donating now – leave your name is you want to be in with a chance of winning cake.

That’s right, you can win cake. I repeat, YOU CAN WIN CAKE. If you donate to our chosen charity, and leave your name on our just giving page, you will be entered into a raffle, not to win top tat but to win cake. Actual cake. Through the post from the magnificent Say it with Brownies What’s not to like about that?

So, there we have it, CommsCamp is still at home but with a lovely slice of cake on the side.

Happy baking and see you by the cake table

Kate Bentham

Official Cake Monitor

blog: how does online commscamp compare with in person?

by Kate Bentham

CommsCamp at home – how does it differ to being in person?

I’ve been lucky to be involved in CommsCamp since it first started back in 2013.

I’ve travelled to Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield and Doncaster, carrying tins of tiffin to use as a bribe to talk to comms professionals and to encourage them to part with money for a chosen charity.

That couldn’t happen during 2020. I had to stay home. We all had to stay home. But thankfully CommsCamp stayed home too.

So how did #CommsCampStaysHome differ? To be fair, there wasn’t much difference, apart from I wore my slippers and sat on my sofa looking into a screen, whilst eating cake

  • There was still a pre-event curry and drinks social event, with the added bonus of a quiz.
  • There were over 300 comms professionals who attended over two mornings.
  • Job titles were still left at the door, it simply doesn’t matter if you have years of experience or just starting out, your opinion is valid.
  • There were still people who were new to CommsCamp and this is great
  • All sectors were represented, from local government, to education, to the emergency services to housing, and the voluntary sector.
  • There was still no agenda, but a great variety of ideas pitched and a grid of nearly 50 different conversation sessions over the two days, all set by those attending.
  • The rule of two feet still applied. It was still ok to leave a session and head into another room.
  • Connections were still made, email addresses still exchanged, faces were still put to names.
  • It was still free to attend and always will be.
  • There was still a heavy cake theme (it’s all about the cake), we even issued the exclusive Commscamp Cookbook and the breakout rooms where cake themed.
  • There was still a cake baking contest with a star baker prize at stake.
  • Comms people are still good people and managed to donate over £1000 to The Christie cancer charity for which we thank you.
  • Attendees received a tea towel which wasn’t a tea towel but a strategic communications channel.
  • We still had a fantastic team of volunteers who worked to pull this together with guidance from Dan Slee and Emma Rodgers.
  • We still had some brilliant sponsors and we are very grateful for their continued support.

So yes, CommsCampStaysHome had to be different but it was also its brilliant familiar self and I can’t wait to do it all again in September.

Kate Bentham is the Official Cake Monitor at commscamp

Picture credit: Nigel Bishop

What we learnt about the struggles of brand management in public sector comms at CommsCamp

by Candi Underwood, Brand Stencil

In August we sponsored #commscampathome, an conference for comms people working in the Public Sector.

From the police to local councils and everything in between, we relished the opportunity to hear the troubles people experience in the industry and to look at practical solutions to how we can make their lives easier while encouraging digital transformation in the public sector.

With over 242 unique attendees across both days we weren’t short of a few horror stories and tell tales, so we’re rounding up what we learnt about the struggles of brand management in public sector comms:

People are seen as the brand police

As comms people this is a perception that can often be placed upon you and once you’ve been tarnished with that brush it can be hard to change people’s minds. In the public sector this term is more common as it’s usually one person in the organisation who is seen to be almost militant in their brand management. The struggle they face however is that other people just don’t care about the brand as they do. This is a really common issue we hear, which is why we wrote this article on Brand governance made easy: tips for managing your brand to help with getting people onboard and caring about your brand.

Going rogue is more common that you think

During our session there was no shortage of anecdotal evidence that people going rogue with the brand is a normality. It was relayed several times to us that people will often make and distribute their own things without consulting the comms team. In order to work towards a solution the real question we were asking here is why is that? Some mentioned it was more about saving time or just getting the job done themselves, some mentioned the fact that some people just don’t think about the brand or understand why it’s important. And for those that did want to stay on brand there were more limited resources available.

Templates based in Word documents or sometimes even Publisher

Templates are not a new idea and everybody was on the same page with using them. However they were a lot more ad-hoc, with Microsoft Word or Publisher documents drifting about. These were stored in a central place, but people were frequently saving them locally onto their desktop and thereby using out of date templates.

There is an appetite for digital transformation internally & externally

Throughout the day the attendees at #commscampstaysathome talked about digital transformation in the public sector and how, although progress may be slow, the wheels are turning. A lot of people were looking to go digital to increase comms efficiency: for example to introduce briefing forms or to create digital templates to help with their brand management.

Others were looking more to use digital tools to increase engagement; having had all face to face events stopped due to the pandemic they were finding it harder to reach their target audience and looking for advice on social media and other engagement tools to bridge the gap.

Throughout the conference the ideas on digital transformation were certainly flowing. There was talk of a utopia where everyone stayed on brand and clip art calamities were never seen again; of introducing something like BrandStencil where digital templates could make comms people’s time and spend more effective and they could stop being the brand police; of a world where you didn’t have to make poor designs from word templates and get into a time sink of fixing people’s artwork.

And the main outcome was that this is possible, but with baby steps. With budget constraints, technological constraints and uncertainty over how it could work digital transformation in the public sector wasn’t something that would happen overnight but it’s something that is at the forefront of future plans.

Brand Stencil are a main sponsor of #commscampstayshome.

WEBINAR: Creating Accessible and inclusive digital content

At this year’s commscampstayshome we welcomed texthelp as sponsors for the first time. They’re a company who supply good software to organisations who want to improve people’s lives. They also want to help you get to grips with imminent accessibility legislation.

by Lisa Smyth, texthelp

September 23, 2020 is the next deadline for digital accessibility regulations in the UK. So it’s more important than ever that you ensure you’re going above and beyond with digital inclusion.

On 17th September Daniel McLaughlan, Accessibility and Usability Consultant, Abilitynet will be joining Sarah Richards, Founder of Content Design London and the creator of GOV.UK website content strategy, and Donna Thomson, Marketing Manager at Texthelp for a webinar with easy, practical advice on accessibility and digital inclusion.

Shaping truly inclusive experiences

Inaccessible graphics, videos, and social media content clearly hinder accessible user experiences. Now more than ever, it’s essential we open up every piece of digital content, so that everyone has the chance to consume it and is given the same welcoming experience as you have intended. Included:

  • Overview of web accessibility legislation and forthcoming deadlines
  • Creating accessible graphics, videos and social media content
  • Creating content which contributes to the inclusivity and accessibility of a website.
  • Live panel Q&A
  • Register to attend live or receive the post-webinar recording and slides.

If you are working to improve your digital communications, boost your brand reputation, and build more inclusive marketing and digital experiences please register to attend live, or to receive the recording and slides.

Register now for ‘how to create accessible & inclusive digital content’.

The hashtag is #a11y

texthelp are sponsors of #commscampstayshome.

CONFUSED at how to join the event? here’s an explainer video

If this is your first unconference then welcome.

If this is your first online unconference then welcome… its ours too.

We’ve taken some broad proven principles that work offline and we’re experimenting with them online for commscampstayshome.

We are together on a voyage of discovery.

We’ve been busily testing platforms and we’ve settled on QiQochat after a tip from Lloyd Davis. It’s a platform that works with Zoom but gives some added flexibility.

Have you a ticket?

Tickets sold out very rapidly. If you do have a ticket for Day 1 it means you’ll get into Day 1. If you got one for Day 2 you’ll get into Day 2. If you got them for both you are very lucky. They joining links will be sent individually for each day.

FOR ATTENDEES, THE LINK YOU NEED FOR THE CURRY THE NIGHT BEFORE AND THE MAIN EVENT IS UNIQUE TO YOU AND WILL COME FROM THE QIQOCHAT TEAM THE MORNING BEFORE THE EVENT. IT WON’T COME FROM EVENTBRITE OR US. (Qiqochat is the platform we’ll be using.)

IF YOU DON’T GET AN EMAIL OR IF YOU HAVE PROBLEMS LOGGING ON DROP A LINE TO SWEYN.HUNTER@HOTMAIL.COM

A video explainer

This should answer your questions as to how to join the event and how to move between rooms. Stuck? Sweyn Hunter is onhand sweyn.hunter@hotmail.com before and during the event.

Big thanks to our super main sponsors Touch DesignGranicus,  and Brand Stencil.

Thanks to our co-sponsors texthelpDan SleeCAN Digital and Birdsong Consultancy.

Thanks to our supporters: Public Sector Digital Transformation Forum CIPR Local Public Services and David Banks Media Law.

announcing the commscamp cookbook for you to bake award-winning cakes

by Kate Bentham

Cake has always featured heavily at any commscamp up and down the land. Lovely people bake and bring cake for others to eat throughout the day, until you reach the point you feel sick and think you’re never going to eat another piece of cake ever again, but you will. How could you not?

Commscamp is a little different this year, but that doesn’t mean that cake is off the agenda, even if there were an agenda. Cake will still feature and #commscampstayshome

There’s still a cake baking contest, so if there are any star bakers out there, prepare the tins.

It’s also OK to still eat cake throughout the day, these are the Commscamp rules, I haven’t just made these up.

And as a special little thank you for being such lovely supporters, we’re offering you a copy of the first edition of the official Commscamp cookbook, packed with recipes from some of our previous star baker winners and regular bakers. We wouldn’t have been able to pull this together without their help, so a big thank you to:-

  • Phil Morcom
  • Kate Bob Vogelsang
  • Kelly Quigley-Hicks (Star Baker winner Commscamp Birmingham)
  • Albert Freeman
  • Carolyne Mitchell (Star Baker winner Commscamp Bradford)
  • Jude Tipper (Star Baker winner Commscamp Sheffield)
  • Josephine Graham (Star Baker winner Commscamp Manchester)

The cookbook can be found in the files section of the Commscamp Facebook group for you to download for free, but you can also donate to the Commscamp charity this year, The Christie. You can find out more about why we’ve chosen this charity here.

We hope you enjoy making the cakes in this book, don’t forget to tweet a photo of your creation, and tag in the baker who kindly shared their recipe.

GOOGLE DRIVE: https://bit.ly/katescakesrecipes

WE TRANSFER: https://we.tl/t-KcWPAbeUva

You can donate to our charity appeal and read more about it RIGHT HERE.

Day 1 of #commscampstayshome is August 20 and Day 2 August 25.

Big thanks to our super main sponsors Touch DesignGranicus  and Brand Stencil.

Thanks to our co-sponsors texthelpDan SleeCAN Digital and Birdsong Consultancy.

Thanks to our supporters: Public Sector Digital Transformation ForumCIPR Local Public Services, UK Govcamp and David Banks Media Law.

curry & quiz: what the social the night before will look like

by Kate Vogelsang

Ahead of each of the two days of commscampstayshome there will be a social the night before.

Of course, we’d love it if we could go along to a real curry house and sit down to a real curry on a table of old friends and new. In previous years we have enjoyed the delights of Manzils in Birmingham (with a bit of England losing to Croatia thrown in), Jinnah in Bradford, eastZeast in Salford, and 7SpicesBalti in Sheffield.

Is your mouth watering yet?

The curry night is a mainstay of CommsCamp and anyone who has a ticket is welcome. It’s a chance to catch up, chat to other comms pros, chew the fat, have a rant and enjoy a few beers/lemonades.

This year, we’re doing the whole thing virtually so it’ll also be a chance to road test the tech ahead of the big day so you’ll understand how it’ll work. 

Here’s the plan

Commscamp socials traditionally take place the evening before the big event in a local restaurant highly recommended. This year, curry will be coming home. While you all will have used Zoom over the past few months, we’re also using some extra tech called QiQo to replicate as much of the CommsCamp experience as we can. It’ll definitely be worth you joining us for a bit of the night, even if 7.30pm is way past your teatime and you can only join us for a drink, so you can have a play around in the commscamp virtual rooms. 

We’ll send ticket holders a link the day before that you can use for the curry. 

Here’s how to join in

Choose your local curry house. Needless to say, this is a BYO event. 

Place your order for delivery around 7.30pm on either Weds 19th August or Monday 24th August, or both, depending which day(s) you’re coming to CommsCamp. Make sure you order enough for breakfast the next day. 

Sit down at 7pm with the tipple of your choice and join the social online by following the Zoom/QiQo link. 

Find your way into the drinks room to say hi to the organisers and your fellow campers. 

When your curry arrives, make your way to the curry room. Take a picture of your dinner for social media and share what you have online – we want to see Naan sizes, curry colours and poppadom volumes. The bigger and brighter the better. 

8.30pm will be the commscamp quiz. You’ll need pen and paper. If you want to play along, you’ll need to be in the quiz room for 8.30pm.

As ever, if you can’t come to the event and you have a ticket do cancel it so we can re-distribute it to the waitlist. If you’d like see some of the pitch ideas for what we could discuss head to the commscamp Facebook page.

Big thanks to our super main sponsors Touch DesignGranicusCouncil Advertising Network and Brand Stencil.

Thanks to our co-sponsors texthelpDan Slee and Birdsong Consultancy.

Thanks to our supporters: Public Sector Digital Transformation ForumandDavid Banks Media Law.

we’re staying home, we’re baking cakes and there’s a bake-a-long session

by Kate Bentham

So Commscamp is having to do things a little bit different this year. We can’t all meet and eat cake together, but that doesn’t mean that cake isn’t going to feature – it is after all what Commscamp is all about, not the comms, but the cake.

Here’s how this year’s cake table is going to work.

The cake baking competition is still on. Yay. Could you be this year’s Star Baker and winner of the wooden spoon? We will be asking our bakers to send a photo of their wonderful creations and the winner will be announced in the Prize Room at the end. Look out for posts closer to the day on how you can submit your photo.

We all still need to make sure we have some cake to eat. The fact of the matter is that anyone who has attended a Commscamp in previous years would have left feeling sick from the amount of cake they consumed during the day, but them’s the rules. We still want people to connect over a slice of lemon drizzle and there will be plenty of opportunities to join others in shared break out spaces to chat, so make sure you have some cake to hand.

We are still raising money for charity. At Commscamp we ask those that can, to donate a few pennies for a slice of cake. This money then goes to a chosen charity. Since Commscamp first started in 2013 the lovely attendees have raised nearly £3,000. This year the chosen charity is The Christie and you can read a very personal blog post from Emma Rogers  on what this charity means to her and her family.

There’s still a raffle. This year if you donate you will be entered into a raffle, not to win top tat but to win cake. Actual cake. Through the post. What’s not to like about that?

There’s a special Commscamp cake cook book. We’ve been in touch with some of our lovely regular bakers and previous star bakers to ask them to contribute a recipe to a special Commscamp book and we are very grateful that they have. You can download the book and try your hand at baking some of the wonderful cakes. The cook book is free to download but there’s nothing stopping you donating if you can. Watch out for posts on how to download.

They’ll be a Commscamp bakealong. One of the sessions at #Commscampstayshome will be making some tiffin – you can join in, or if you want a bit of peace and quiet while you attend a session on actual comms, get the children to join in instead. If you want to take part, you’ll need these ingredients in advance.

100g Butter

200g Milk chocolate

3tbsp golden syrup

225g Finely crushed digestive biscuits

225g mint Aero, Maltesers or 4 broken crunchie bars

100g Melted chocolate

So, there we have it, a virtual Commscamp but still with a lovely slice of cake on the side.

Happy baking and see you by the cake table at #CommsCampStaysHome

Kate Bentham

Official Cake Monitor

Big thanks to our super main sponsors Touch DesignGranicus,  and Brand Stencil.

Thanks to our co-sponsors texthelpDan SleeCAN Digital and Birdsong Consultancy.

Thanks to our supporters: Public Sector Digital Transformation Forum CIPR Local Public Services and David Banks Media Law.