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Well done if you got a ticket, don’t despair if you haven’t

Well, that went well.

The first ticket release saw `150 tickets go in nine minutes and the second and third weren’t bad either.

Day 1 of #commscampstayshome will be August 20 and Day 2 will be August 25.

Both will be online to ticket holders.

If you got a ticket

Well done. You are a sharp kiddy who is going to go far. If you can still come don’t forget to add it to your calendar. We’ll be emailing you and posting here to tell you how things will shape up.


1. Put the date that’s on your ticket into your calendar.

2. There’ll be a social online the night before. Put that in your calendar, too. More to follow. 

3. Follow us on @commscamp on Twitter and the commscamp Facebook group.

4. Let us know if plans have changed and you can’t come. That way we can re-release the ticket to someone on the wait list.

If you didn’t manage to grab a ticket

Don’t worry if you’re after a ticket

As time ticks on people hand their tickets back and they will be passed to the waitlist.

You can add yourself to the waitlist by heading to this page and navigating to the Day 1 and Day 2 eventbrite.

Any questions, just shout.

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

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

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

We have some good news for you just when you need some… there WILL be a commscamp this year.


Over the past few weeks a crack team has been testing platforms and we think we’ve got a proposition.

Here’s what we know:

  • It will online.
  • It will still be a safe space to discover, learn and shape ideas.
  • It will still be a place to meet new people.
  • It will still involve cake.
  • It will  still be a welcome respite from [waves generally] all them but also a respite from [all that, too].


  • It won’t be crap.

What is commscamp?

It’s an unconference for public sector communicators. This means the agenda gets chosen on the day by the attendees themselves.

Where can you help?

We’ve been shaping some ideas and approaches and we’ve got a platform but we’d like to hear what you think.

We’d like you to spend two minutes on this surveymonkey link telling us what you’d like to see. That will help refine our thinking when we make the full announcement.

Where can you keep up to speed?

You can keep up to speed with announcements through this site but also through our email list that you can sign-up to here.

We can’t wait.

We hope you can’t, too.

Organising team: Bridget Aherne, Kate Bentham, David Grindlay, Sweyn Hunter, Arlene McKay, Emma Rodgers, Dan Slee and Kate Vogelsang.


commscampnorth: public relations, pregnancy and promotion


by Rosemary Davenport

 I work in housing. I’m six months pregnant. And I’ve just been promoted.

Shocked? You shouldn’t be. But it’s been interesting to see how many people are. When I’ve mentioned this to friends and colleagues they’ve had a variety of responses:

  • “Did they know you were pregnant when they interviewed you?”
  • “I’m really surprised they’d promote you when you’re off on maternity leave in a few weeks”
  • “Wow, that’s great. It would never happen at my place”.

The resounding sentiment is that this is still an unusual state of affairs, even in the era of #MeToo. I should be surprised at the reactions. But I’m not.

I’ve heard shocking stories from my housing industry comms colleagues. Of senior leaders routinely using sexist language in the office, of females being humiliated and then told ‘calm down love, we didn’t ask you to take your clothes off’, and of a male CEO repeatedly talking to young female colleagues about his previous sexual conquests.

Sound like scenes from Mad Men, don’t they? A show, let’s not forget, set 60 years ago.

I consider myself very fortunate to have a (male) feminist boss. He wears this on his sleeve, as he should. My pregnancy was a complete non-issue when applying for the job.

In fact, the only time it was brought up was when he checked if there was anything additional he could do to support me – or minimise the stress of the interview process.

And even before I started with the organisation, I know he robustly challenged a retiring male boss who questioned the wisdom of employing a recently married woman in her thirties. “She’ll only get pregnant you know”, this individual said. “Good. I hope she does, if that’s what she wants”, my boss replied.

 The housing industry, and the PR industry, has a lot to learn from this. An approach that should be normal, not one I should feel ‘fortunate’ to have encountered.

 We all know that communications is dominated by females; we make up 64% of employees according to the PRCA.

 The gender pay gap in our industry is 21%. That’s 2.6 percent higher than the already appalling UK gender pay gap, which ranks 25th out of 30 in Europe.

 And while there are fantastic female leaders out there, the top tier of our profession is still dominated by men.

 But what can we do about this? Well, we all need to take responsibility for developing talent – and our male leaders need to particularly take this on board.

 Things like CommsCamp, which I recently attended, help. The format of this means everyone has a platform to seek advice, learn from others and be cheered on by colleagues across comms.

 It’s not just the top tier on panels. In fact, there aren’t any panels, making it more egalitarian. Anyone can pitch a session – and I ran one on ‘what makes a great head of comms?’.

 It was great to gather wisdom and insight ahead of my interview – and a number of senior men (and women) went out of their way to congratulate me when I got the job.

 And it felt appropriate that my session was followed by one on imposter syndrome. There were plenty of men there, indicating that while men may be more frequently represented in the ‘dominant coalition’ of organisations they are also, like many women, not terribly comfortable with it!

 People regardless of gender in comms are generally seen as good listeners, empathetic and, from my experience, the first port of call when senior folk are seeking advice. I guess this is obvious really. After all, we’re all used to focusing on audiences, gathering insight, listening to concerns, honing key messages and responding to nuance.

And if this is true surely the men amongst our ranks who are already at the top table of organisation, are some of the best to tackle the problem of workplace sexism, ingrained attitudes and plateauing progression for women.

I recently read an article in the New York Times that talked about (and challenged) the common view that women need to be pushier and ‘lean in’ to salary increases and promotions. Essentially, we need to improve ourselves; be more like men.

No we shouldn’t. Don’t make this our problem. Make it yours.

I’m glad I have a boss who recognises this and is doing something about it. How are you going to follow his lead?

Rosemary Davenport is Head of Communications at Homes England

round-up ‘what I learned from commscampnorth’


One of the delights of any event is the ideas that are kicked around.

So, this page aims to capture some of the writing and blogging that emerges in the days and weeks after the event.

BLOG: ‘Commscampnorth and campaigns‘ by Ian Curwen

BLOG: ‘27 things I learned at commscampnorth‘ by Dan Slee

BLOG: ‘On Wednesday I took part in commscampnorth in Bradford‘ by Josephine Graham

BLOG: ‘Public Relations, Pregnancy and Promotion‘ by Rosemary Davies.

Check back and see what has been added.

blog: 8 things we learned from commscampnorth


by Grace Conlon and Rosemary Davenport

This post was a round-up of ideas that emerged from commscampnorth and was written by two Homes Endland attendees.

  1. ‘Unconferences’ work! CommsCamp is set up unlike any conference either of us had attended before. There’s no agenda and no planned sessions. We were a little baffled by this initially, but it worked really well. Dan Slee invites people to pitch sessions, you grab a mic and then attendees clap vigorously if they like your idea. There were 30 sessions in total across 6 rooms (and fortunately 30 pitches!). If you pitch an idea, you ‘host’ that session and facilitate the conversation. Essentially it means people get to talk about what’s on their minds and you can draw on the expertise in the room.
  1. It can be lonely at the top. I (Rosie) pitched a session entitled ‘What make a great Head of Comms or comms manager?’. It was really well attended and we picked up lots of tips. We heard how it can be lonely at the top, and you have to be prepared for that as you progress in your career; you have a different peer network and you have to learn personal resilience in a different way, which is worth preparing for. But the overwhelming sense in the room was that you don’t have to stop being yourself just because you’re more senior. We also covered how one of the best things you can do to help your team is either saying ‘no’ on their behalf, or empowering them to say no to unnecessary work – ensuring they can concentrate on priorities. We also heard tips on how to hear what your team need from you – anonymous surveys were hailed as a way to get honest feedback – and how ‘moving across to move up’ means you gain a breadth of experience. As you progress in your career, it was also noted that you do less comms – which is worth considering if this is where you want to get to.
  1. Developing audience insight is key. I (Rosie) went to a session on developing ‘personas’ for different audiences; essentially ‘what does the archetypal member of this audience look like’ to aid understanding. There was a lot of debate in the room about whether this was a useful exercise (as audiences are rarely just one homogenous group; they’re much more nuanced), but the broad thrust was that the more you dig into your audience, the richer your understanding will be and you’ll be better equipped to communicate with them. I asked about how people ‘banked’ their insight and shared across the team / org – someone from the Department for Education said they had a ‘Knowledge Hub’ that was easy to tap into.
  1. We’re all suffering from Imposter Syndrome. Well, maybe not all of us (honestly, well done if you’re not!) but the sheer amount of people attending a session about this (from the most senior to the most junior) indicated that there’s a real issue on this in our profession. The room speculated on why this might be – is it because there’s often a view in organisations that ‘anyone can do comms’ or ‘we don’t have proper jobs’? No-one could really put their finger on it, but there were great tips for managing it – and Clare Josa’s book ‘Ditching the Imposter Syndrome’ was recommended (one for the Comms book club!).
  1. Networking is brilliant. CommsCamp is excellent for linking you up with people in your (broad) area. Our LinkedIns have been going crazy since the event, and we’re following lots of wise new friends on Twitter. The event definitely highlighted to me the value of being candid and asking your peers for support. After asking the room in Rosie’s session for any tips or guidance for junior members of staff looking for development, I (Grace) ended up having a great conversation about a potential mentor relationship. It proved in short, you can’t beat a bit of strategic networking to keep bringing in fresh ideas and learning from a broad range of folk.
  1. Change is constant. I (Grace) pitched a session on ‘How to create positive engagement surrounding change and transformation’. Given that it’s a new area of work for me, it was a bit of a plea for people vastly more knowledgeable to provide me with some hints and tips as I dip my toe into the world of internal comms. It was fascinating to hear the shared experiences and similar struggles people have faced across different organisations. A shared feeling was that ‘change is constant’, things are altering and updating all the time, and without regular and suitable forms of communication staff enthusiasm can become diluted and engagement can become challenging. ‘Think about your audience’; have an understanding of how change and transformation will affect them. The further the change is from them and their drivers, the less engagement you will gain. Show staff how transformation will work for them and make their life better. Be honest; tell people the truth, if nothing is happening, tell them why.
  1. Managers are your greatest communicators, equip them with the right tools. Another thing I (Grace) learnt from my session on transformation was about which tools are best to communicate this type of message. A resounding response of ‘face to face’ echoed from across the room. When discussing this form of communication, we also shared the combined struggles we have faced as communicators when the tone of our messaging is dulled in Chinese whispers across an agency. How do we combat this and how do we make our managers into skilled communicators? Equip them with the tools – We shared tips about management conversation packs, slide decks and supplementary videos to relay key messages from senior leaders, along with testimonials from fellow colleagues to create the ‘peer voice’. With all this, we can make sure our messages are landing with the impact they need.
  1. Cake, Cake, and more Cake. A comms version of the Great British Bake Off. Need I say more?

Grace Conlon and Rosemary Davenport work in communications for Homes England.

commscamp faces: first time attendee Nick Moore

180427-CCN-160In the latest in a series of Q&As with people who will be at commscampnorth a first time attendee.

Hello, Nick Moore, what do you do?

I’m a ‘Digital Development Officer’ and what my actual role entails is managing a social media team within customer services. I spend all day working with social media and all things digital while making sure my team deliver a first class customer services experience over Facebook and Twitter.

Is this your first time at commscampnorth?

It is indeed, hopefully first of many.

What session are you thinking of pitching about?

What’s new? There are so many tools/websites/apps out there, and many which haven’t stood the test of time. Recently I was told that something called ‘Nextdoor’ has 33,000 subscribers in Leeds. Should we be using this? What does everyone use to communicate with their communities? What don’t they use? What would they use if they had more time?

What session would you quite like if someone pitched?

Anything similar to my idea really, or something about video.

What’s the best thing about working in the public sector?

The people. We’re a lovely bunch.

What’s the worst thing?

Having to find a workaround for…everything? Forced to use substandard equipment because there’s no budget. I end up buying so much of my own stuff because it’s easier/quicker to do that than write a business case for why I need a £10 tripod for my mobile phone.

What’s your favourite cake?

Lemon drizzle

What’s your favourite digital platform?

Dare I say it? Facebook.

What’s the one thing you’d do to make the public sector better?

Work better as a team. Stop internal departments trying to charge each other for work or help.

commscampnorth faces: an absent friend emma rodgers

Emma Rodgers has been to every single commscamp event and all but one as co-organiser.

emmaShe’s taking a step back this time to concentrate on matters closer to home as her husband fights cancer. This is the reason why we’re raising money for MacMillan Cancer this year.

She’ll be missed but she’ll be with us in spirit.

Name: Emma Rodgers

Will you be at commscamp north in Bradford and what’s your excuse? I’m sad to say that I won’t be. My husband was guttingly diagnosed with cancer at the beginning of this year and we’ll be at the Christie hospital while he gets his 4th cycle of immunotherapy treatment for advanced kidney cancer.

This will be the first commscamp that I’ve missed.

Apart from the first one where I volunteered to help as a camp maker I’ve always been a co-organiser of commscamp – always with Dan Slee and then a group of others in the lovely commscamp family. It feels extremely weird and sad taking a back seat but I know people understand needs must.

Why choose Macmillan cancer relief for the commscamp charity?

My recent direct experience is that they provide an invaluable service – from research and clinical nurse specialists to signposting with clear information and guidance as well as on-line groups and forums, helping with understanding diagnosis or financial implications, the support they provide is second to none.

Cancer isn’t often spoken about and I’ve found myself that the language and tone used through the whole horrible thing is so important. Macmillan get this spot on. They are a brilliant charity and given cancer affects one in every two in the UK, I suspect they will touch most people at some point in their lives.

You do know you’ll be missed don’t you?

Everyone has been so lovely about me not being able to make it. From Dan to Bridget to Kate – otherwise know as Cake – Bentham and too many others to mention, it’s been a reminder of why commscamp is such a unique, sociable and brilliant learning experience. I feel really sad about not having it in my life this year.

Looking back at the unconferences you’ve been involved in organising, what’s your favourite memory?

There are so many to mention, it’s hard to narrow down. My favourite highlights in no particular order are having the best of laughs with people that often I only see once a year, mint choc aero tiffin made by the talented Kate Bentham, ice cream and conversation in the sunshine, pushing the lovely Sophie Davies around on a trolley in Sheffield which caused chaos and the unpredictable yet guaranteed tomfoolery that always comes from the end of day tat raffle. The collector’s Princess Diane mug and the 1980’s office in a carry case being just two of the best prizes on offer.

What advice do you have for new attendees?

Go with an open mind and be comforted that this is one of the friendlies ever communications event in the calendar. Commscamp is perfect for everyone  – whether you’re new to comms or an old face like me, no-one’s views matter more than anyone else’s and hierarchy is parked at the door. It’s also a cliché but you get out what you put in. Embrace it for the laid-back, truly inspirational event that it is and make as many new friends as you possibly can. So many relationships that I’ve build through commscamp are not only some of my greatest friends but also my go to people for communications advice when I need it. Finally, think about where you’re had a problem or a success and you’re up for sharing it with others so you can pitch it for a session. This is the most friendly environment to try something new and you’ll always be supported.

What advice would you give for the pre-social?

It’s a great way to meet new folks in advance and it’s a great laugh too. There’s a lovely sense of camaraderie as people share a few drinks, their stories and current stresses and successes. And the food is always yum. Hmmm I’m sensing a theme here.

Commscamp is always packed with the most delicious grub out.

Which is the best commscamp – Birmingham, Sheffield or Manchester?

I’m obviously biased with Birmingham as that’s where most of the commscamps have taken place. It’s normally great weather in Birmingham (yes I did say that) and the sunshine and setting are so fantastic, it feels like you’re on holiday, even though you’re learning shed loads. Generally though commscamp feels so ‘unconference’, that any location is brilliant.

Favourite cake?

It has to be hot chocolate fudge cake with ice cream melting on the top.

commscampnorth faces: 2nd timer Leanne Hughes

louiseAs part of the build-up to commscampnorth we’re running a series of Q&As with people who will be there.

In this post, Louise Hughes.

Hello, Louise, is this your first unconference?

No, I went to the last one in Sheffield.

If its not your first unconference what tips do you have to someone new?

If like me at my first event, you are a bit unsure if you should be there, you definitely should. The format is so refreshing, the people are very friendly and it’s true that the level of seniority does not matter one bit. You will learn loads. Don’t be shy, it’s a great bunch of genuine folk. I’m not part of a wider communication team so I really need events like this to help my professional development.

What made you volunteer and what will you be doing as a volunteer?

I wanted to get a ticket! Well, that and I did it last time and it helped me to get involved. I’m generally just a bit like that too…

What session would you like to see pitched at the event?

I like the one around how to keep skills up to date to be relevant, I’d like one about how to make the next step in your career.

What topics are you looking to go to?

I offered one on imposter syndrome and finding your voice  so I’ll be at that one if it runs.

What’s your favourite cake?

Anything which features almond. 

Can you describe public sector comms in three words?

Make a difference.

Have you been to Bradford before? 

Nope, but I did go to uni in Sheffield.

What single thing would you do to make the public sector a better place?

Break down the archaic internal bureaucracy especially in relation to style of communication used from senior managers.

For NHS particularly, allow the IT to really support creative jobs – my job can be literally impossible at times using the internal IT.

What’s your favourite cake?

Almond, raspberry sponge.

Tips on how to get the most out of commscampnorth… even if you’re not in the room


by John Fox

Did you miss out on the ballot for this week’s CommsCampNorth? Is it possible to learn from the information sharing that takes place there?

Unlike most industry events, conferences and seminars on a myriad of topics, a CommsCamp is so very different because it is focused explicitly on communications professionals who hold dear to the heart the principles of good, effective and often innovative customer engagement and communication.

And usually fortunately comms people are very good at sharing their knowledge and experiences for the benefit of others facing similar challenges to our own.

We all have friends and work associates that we follow on social media and in blogs. They influence our own thinking and encourage us to think out of the box and to try something new. It’s good to follow, and definitely on CommsCampNorth day. Follow the conversation tweeted by your regular contacts who you know to be present but also keep an eye on the @CommsCamp Twitter feed for an overall narrative of the event and topics in discussion. Following #CommsCampNorth hashtag timeline on CommsCamp day can be revelatory for folk of all experience levels. One can pick up snippets of ideas mooted by one person that are responded to by others. And you can lob in your own thoughts from afar too.

Rather like an oak tree that grows from an acorn, these little snippets can in time grow into big ideas and workable solutions, and best of all, this knowledge and experienced is shared at no cost to you whatsoever. There is considerable benefit to be gleaned by following CommsCamp remotely, but don’t set too much score on the day itself.

For many the real benefit of the day comes later.

For many past attendees the overall evaluation of the event will not be what’s seen on the timeline of the day.

Rather, it’ll be the new contacts discovered, post-event blogs written by attendees on a favourite subject, or even your own remembrance months after the event that that little problem you’re trying to fathom out today was discussed at CommsCamp and you now know who to maybe contact and seek some additional insights to help you.

You can follow John Fox on Twitter here

commscampnorth faces: Q&A with Volunteer and first time attendee Chris Dudley

0As part of our Q&A this is one of our volunteers Chris Dudley who is attending for the first time.

Hello, Chris. Is this your first unconference?

Yes it is and I can’t wait.

What made you volunteer and what will you be doing as a volunteer?

Seen as it’s in sunny Bradford this year, and as a proud Yorkshireman I just thought it was the right thing to do. I’ll be helping set up the room on the day and helping however I can.

What session would you like to see pitched at the event?

I’ll be pitching about how we can rationalise Social Media accounts across large organisations, but other than that understanding how e-marketing is being used throughout the sector would be cool to explore.

Can you describe public sector comms in three words?

Stories that matter.

Have you been to Bradford before? 

Yes, we’re only down the road. It’s the best place for curry in the land. FACT.

What single thing would you do to make the public sector a better place?

Make organisations collaborate more – we’re all on the same team.

What’s your favourite cake?

Coffee Cake.