Once upon a time a comms officer from Scotland won a ticket to a magical social media conference in the far off land of London… Sorry for the cheesy start, but it seemed somehow appropriate to enter story-telling mode after spending a fantastic day at Social Media Exchange 2015, which put the power of a good tale at the heart of its programme.
And what tales we heard! Stories to inspire, make us laugh, tear-jerkers, adventures, romance – #SMEX15 had it all. From Tracey Ford’s powerful story of mum turned campaigner after her son was killed by gang violence, to Victoria Wright’s warmth and sense of fun around her work with disability rights, the stories kept coming all day.
Comms professionals are now as familiar with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as Cinderella was with the daily grind
What became clear to me at the conference is that many comms professionals are now as familiar with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as Cinderella was with the daily grind. I didn’t hear many questions on the technicalities of using these tools. What matters is our ability to use them to weave our magic and bring a fresh interpretation to the age-old art of spinning a good yarn. We can use photos, video, infographics, hashtags and more, but in the end it comes down to great ideas and great content. Unlike Cinderella’s fairy godmother we can’t magic up a resplendent carriage out of a pumpkin, although sometimes we’re urged to give it a damned good go!
The sessions I went to included working with documentary makers, brilliant blogging with Mencap and handling sensitive case studies with Save the Children. Like Prince Charming scouring the kingdom for the dainty foot that fits the glass slipper, all of the presenters agreed that the big challenge is working with your networks to find your stories. Even in the wonderful new world of digital media, comms is all about building relationships, earning trust and getting people on board – whether that’s your own colleagues, clients, stakeholders or supporters. Whatever new tools emerge, the heart of our jobs will always be about people and understanding human nature.
The biggest thing I took away from the conference? After laughing, crying (four times!), being shocked and pleasantly surprised, it helped me to remember that comms professionals have a special place in the third sector. We might feel far from the frontline sometimes, but without us many of these brilliant stories would struggle to find an audience. We weave our tales and hope that our reward for a well-told story is a better life for the people and the causes we care about.