Your network is more than just business contacts, they are your friends…

On Friday 11th August 2017, my whole world changed as I lost my dear Father.

He was an amazing man who came over to England in the late 60’s to create a better life for what would become a larger than life family.  He worked hard all his life (alongside #MommaChoudry ) and brought up 10 children.  You heard me right, I’m 1 of 10 (5 boys and 5 girls).  There are now 22 grandchildren to add to the mix.  (I couldn’t find a picture with all of us in one room)


Those who know me are well aware that my social media content is not all work work work and I tweeted the news about my Father and was amazed at the response.

The responses reminded me why I’ve INVESTED so much time in developing a personal brand and will continue to do so.  You can keep your #DigitalDetox as the messages from people both openly and direct messages were a great comfort and reminded me of a #CommsHero tee slogan that is amongst my personal favourites and one that I tweeted after the tragic events in Manchester on 22nd May 2017.

On my return to work I was greeted with these fabulous flowers and did as I would normally do and tweet a thank you.  This was soon followed by more shows of support from the amazing community that I am part of on social media.


This showed me that my network is much more than just business contacts, they are my friends.  Thank you again to each and every one of you that took the time to show love and support and I will continue to invest in those relationships as I have done for many years.  I will also continue to invest in my relationship with Dad through daily prayers and blessings as I know he is watching over me, Mum and his many children and grandchildren.


Putting back the SOCIAL in to Media

A couple of weeks ago I delivered a social media masterclass in to the amazing team @mhshomes a master class that I have delivered to many conference delegates and also organisations over the past 18 months. Its a masterclass not driven by textbook theory or fancy graphs and diagrams, but a real life authentic account of my journey and how I began to use, still use and continue to use social media as a core comms channel for work.

I haven’t got a qualification in social media, but what I have got is experience, results and the most important bit – the skill of understanding how to be social.

The team that attended the class @mhshomes was hugely varied from the CEO, Exec Team, Customer Service and Comms; but here’s the thing, and here is why its so authentic – it doesn’t matter what fancy title you have after your name, it doesn’t matter how old you are, it doesn’t matter if you have never used it before – social brings everyone together and opens up conversations that would not have been on the table before – Ask yourself – would we ever have got @AshleyHookmhs searching for GIF’s containing lycra!? (I advise you not to conduct this search!) #NSFW (Not Safe For Work)

One thing I also labour, not only in a masterclass but EVERY day, is the commitment to interact and engage after the event, take a look at  #socialmhs for how this is actually working in practice over two weeks on.

There seems to be a call for all of our well-being to embark on detoxes, a need and desire to remove ourselves from what enslaves us day to day; be that ridding yourself of the Yorkie bar you may snaffle at 11am, the beer you sneak in on a Tuesday night on a bad week, or the one of the moment – the Digital Detox.

You may find it laughable if I state that I think a digital detox is a good thing, but believe me when I say I have a life offline; I value down time with my family and friends; I value and cherish the time I have with my wife and children and I don’t jeopardise this for a digital presence.

However; we need to get over this obsession that being connected via digital is a bad thing, that it takes over our lives, that it makes us less human, that it means we can’t switch off and enjoy ‘normal’ life.

We have to accept that the world is different.  We don’t work how and where we used to, the world is a much more agile and flexible place, and this is down to technology and the ability to communicate digitally.  This approach to agile working also needs to find new ways in how we build our teams, the old approaches of a chat over the kettle whilst making a brew just don’t work anymore, so whats the answer?

A digital solution – not instead of, but aswell as.  A day to day digital solution that gives teams the ability to stay in touch between #IRL (In Real Life) meetings, the ability for them to continue to build upon relationships already created and continue to forge that all important team morale.

We should also start to see social media as a credible internal comms tool, not something reserved for a few groups of people sharing #LoveIsland catch ups, but as a tool that acts as a window to the organisation.  With agile working accessibility can be a challenge; use social to show your teams who they are working for, who their leaders are, and what makes the people in it and the company tick;

I mean, would team @mhshomes know that @AshleyHookmhs did open water swimming?

Would team @HaltonHousing know that @nickatkin_hht daughter is the next singing sensation?

Would team @optivohomes know that they have a @chrisfroome in their midst with @nicks1212 being the next cycling superstar?

And @NottingHillHG would they know that they have a budding @ottolenghi chef in their midst with @KateDaviesNHHT whipping up a storm in her Saturday kitchen?

We have to accept that stopping an interaction of any kind be it digital, #IRL, phone, letter, whatever the medium, it will have one result, and one result only;  the conversations will stop.

They wont stop completely;  but they will stop with you.

Its a well known fact that the most common theme of any relationship breakdown is that you stop communicating; maybe its time we revisited some old values with new traditions?

In complete contrast to the digital detox obsession, we are equally obsessed with becoming ’digital by default’ but we can’t seem to commit to this beyond the historic legacy of what we deem core working hours.  I for one am confused.  This confusion I suppose is an example of where we find ourselves with companies and commentators that want to be digital by default – but only Mon-Fri 9-5, ok ok maybe Mon – Fri 8-6. @PaulBromford wrote a fab blog on this

One of the biggest fails that companies and people do on social media is that they broadcast. One of the main themes on the masterclasses I deliver is to learn and really understand the importance of engagement.  This is what gives real value to a relationship or service, when people take the time to engage when its not of a transactional nature, such as collecting a rent payment, or reporting a repair.  Your customers find value in the feeling that you are interacting with them when there is nothing in it for you.  This demonstrates your authenticity and in turn will build your army of brand ambassadors.

Lets not forget what we personally look for in companies or people we want to build a relationship with:

  •  honesty, integrity and someone you can trust

There is no better way to demonstrate that than from your own teams or customers. #justsaying

It’s no surprise that my favoured platform is twitter, but this isn’t about twitter or LinkedIn, this is about any channel.  We need a multi channel approach (on and offline) that works for you and yours. You have to focus on the content and the messages, and if you really want to make a difference learn to listen with your eyes.

I for one wont be publicly signing off at 5pm tonight until 9am tomorrow or telling you at bang on 5pm on Friday that we will be back at 9am on Monday.  I don’t need to categorise my customer interaction as urgent or non urgent.  To me you’re all as important as each other and I look forward to our continued chats about work, but also the other stuff that makes us who we are.

You don’t have to work in Comms to be #CommsHero

At @WeAreResource and @CommsHero we’ve always stood by the saying;

You don’t have to work in Comms to be a #CommsHero


The 10th #CommsHero event on 23rd May in London is proof of this.  It is completely devoted to tenants and resident involvement staff and is brought to you by resource in partnership with Phoenix Community Housing and Tpas.  This is a shift from our previous nine events that have been instrumental in celebrating the heroics of all comms people, mainly within the housing sector.  It is however, intrinsically linked to the values of what @CommsHero is all about.  I hope Housing Associations will support residents and staff in attending this event. 23rd May, 9:30am to 4pm, The Green Man, Bromley. Places are limited to 70 people and are priced at £95 including a full day delegate plae and all refreshments.  Click here to book places at #CommsHero

So, why hold an event purely for tenants?

Because it matters

Because they matter

Because we should celebrate and hear their voices more and the positive stories they can promote for the good of the sector

This event is a response to a tweet from Jonathan Lawn, @Jonathan_Lawn Head of People Services and Communications at Phoenix Community Housing.  Check out Jonathan’s blog for more details

As a sector we are trying to re connect with the story behind what we do, trying to tell our story in a much more emotive and cohesive way; the NHF @natfednews have coined the phrase:

If you want a great place to live – go to a housing association

Now it’s time to celebrate all those great people that live in those great places – those people are mainly your tenants.   I hope housing associations will support their customers and resident involvement teams to attend the event.

In the arena where many organisations business models may be changing, where they diversify to offer housing solutions to a wider pool of customers, we must remember the foundations of what you are built upon – the bedrock of what makes all housing associations great – the people they serve; and this we mustn’t lose sight of – you are merely custodians of your organisations and have a duty to make them the best you possibly can – educating and celebrating those who you serve.

To ensure this #CommsHero event is a resounding success it was vital we enlisted the top people in the sector to really show our commitment to all your unsung heroes. I’m delighted to be joined by none other than @placeshapers & Aspire CEO @SineadBAspire . Alongside Sinead the ever supportive Jenny Osbourne, CEO of Tpas @TPASJenny and Alison Inman, Vice President of CIH @Alison_Inman. These great people make it their lives work to speak up and provide for the vulnerable in our society; to ensure there is equitable and fair choice when it comes to something as fundamental and basic as your home.

@SineadBAspire is a great believer in social purpose and working with others with mutual respect to achieve the best outcomes, something she touched upon in her latest @insidehousing blog:  This embodies what we do here at @WeAreResource through the @CommsHero brand.
I’m determined to get the sector to reconnect with their hearts and minds and not policies and processes. Let’s remember all that great work the comms heroes up and down the country do, day in day out, and let’s really understand and shout about what impact that makes to people’s lives.

@PaulBromford wrote a thought provoking blog  about not constantly asking our customers what they want, because they probably don’t know, and we shouldn’t base all of our decision making on one fact finding route.

I’m just going to let that sit there for a moment.  This goes against most of the sector’s traditional views but let’s be honest it does makes sense.

I agree with this sentiment that you guys are the professionals, you know what works, you know how to push for excellence and make the world a better place for all those you serve.  What this event aims to do is give tenants the arena to network, to push their thinking and ideas, to change up the way in which the sector communicates with its customers directly – to bring it in to 2017 and to have some fun!

I am confident that this will uncover some gems – how can it not with Helen Reynolds @HelReynolds and Fran O’Hara @fran_ohara also on the bill to unleash your creativity!? -and also profile your tenants in a whole new light; this in turn profiling you as landlords in a whole new light to your customers.

A legend of storytelling and long time ambassador for helping tenants to do this effectively, John Popham @johnpopham will be showing delegates how they can make their voices heard in a positive way using many tools at their disposal.

So why am I doing this? What is resource getting out of it?


Seriously – nothing

At resource we have worked with the #ukhousing sector for over fifteen years and we currently work with over sixty five HAs all over the country.  In total we’ve helped over one hundred HAs tell their story and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many tenants and passionate staff who are all committed to this cause.

We know you, your customers and your business, and we know how to communicate and network – it’s what we do.

We are committed to your sector and the people within it.

It personally matters to me as social housing was a major part of my life growing up. I wrote about this previously prompted by #HousingDay As 1 of 10 brothers and sisters you can imagine how busy home would have been. Social housing gave us our lives, it gave us somewhere we could call home and have the space to be able to develop, breathe and grow.  It gave us our independence, yet allowed us to be united as a family should be.

We mustn’t underestimate this, due to us having this opportunity to have a great place we called home from a housing association, we still have a family home in the heart of Bradford that my children and their seventeen cousins can now call home – ok their second home, but they love nothing more than when school is out on a Friday to head over to Momma Choudry’s for quality time where I grew up.  I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before one of my nieces or nephews will be head to toe in a Liverpool (or Bradford City) kit, dreaming of running out on the hallowed turf at Anfield (or Valley Parade) just as I did, kicking a ball about outside my home in the safe community that social housing provided for us.   Ok, so my dream of Liverpool trials never quite worked out (early hamstring injury!) but the very fact that I could dream gave me a childhood.

This passing through the generations is so easily lost in today’s digital and geographically dispersed world we live; but at the end of the day what do we all want? We want somewhere to call home, we want somewhere to belong and feel safe, somewhere we can dream.

This is what the sector does every day. It’s now time to make heroes of those that call the places you build home.

If you would like to know more about the event, you can tweet me @AsifChoudry or email

Click here to book places at #CommsHero

Brought up by #ProudTenants

Today is #HousingDay and I am beyond proud and honoured to host the newsroom here in Leeds at the home of @ResourceHousing & @CommsHero

Who would have thought that a print provider is so central to what is an incredible day? Raising the profile of all the amazing work that the housing sector and #housingheroes do, day in, day out. (come on – I needed to throw a #hero reference in!)

I’ve centred my efforts of the business around the housing industry, and as a non standard housing professional, I thought today was the day that I give you a little glimpse of my why. To let you see that I do have motivations past print orders and new accounts – they are just an added bonus!! (don’t tell the MD!)

Home to me has always been just home and the type of tenure never even crossed my mind. So much so that it was not until the 1st #housingday 2 years ago that I realised my teenage years were spent in #socialhousing. This proved to me that it really doesn’t matter if you rent your home privately or through a housing provider, or if you own your home outright or with assistance. Your home is the same irrespective of how you ended up there. It’s your safe place and tenure is a mere technicality.

Home was always a busy place to be. I am one of 10 children (5 boys and 5 girls), so at our fullest there was 12 of us in 1 house. It was a truly great place to be and growing up, you never felt alone and always felt loved. Being the 2nd oldest I had a role and responsibility in the family. (think Godfather if you will!)

For the first 12 years of my life we lived in a 3 bed terraced house in Bradford. You know the type, traditional Victorian terrace with a yard as a garden. We certainly wouldn’t have got stung for the bedroom tax back then, maybe the government would have paid us for overcrowding!?

Although, funnily enough it never felt like that. There was a huge sense of community, like real community. People really looking out for one another, the streets filled with sounds of kids playing until they could push an extra 20 minutes no more, and people seemed happy with their lot.

The theme for today is #proudtenant and this is completely applicable to my parents. Having a family our size is normal within the Asian culture and my Mum & Dad always worked incredibly hard. They always provided for us and managed to do this whilst not being able to read or write English, so not only where they #proudtenant, but amazingly #proudparents and still are to this day.

We never wanted for anything, I always remember having the latest #LFC kit, running round the streets pretending I was Kenny Dalglish. I mean, I could have been a pro footballer, but print was my calling!

For the those that follow me on #twitter, you will be familiar with my mid week #MommaChoudry food tweets. I still go ‘home’ to my parents twice a week for dinner with daughters. Food was an integral part to family life growing up, admittedly we had to have our dinner in shifts for the first 12 years of my life, as there wasn’t anything as luxurious as a family dinner table!

I remember our lives changing when i was 13, mine in particular, because it was the first time I had the joy of my own room – a bonus of being one of the eldest! It was also the first time we, as a family could sit round a dinner table together and share a meal. You don’t realise how important that coming together at the end of a day is when you have never had it and to have us all in one place was brilliant. (well for 20 minutes or so – I have 5 sisters don’t forget!)

Our lives changed due to social housing Manningham Housing Association @manninghamha realised that there was a need for large family accommodation in the asian communities, and we were lucky enough to be offered a 6 bedroom house. This was a virtual palace compared to the 3 bed terrace we had been living in.

Manningham Housing not only made our lives better by providing us with a housing solution that we so desperately needed, but it was also one of my first print jobs that led me into the housing sector.

I remember going back to my parents and seeing these newsletters all the time from the housing association. Mum and Dad never took any notice of them as they couldn’t read or write english, and the content really wasn’t applicable to them as existing tenants. I felt they had their target market wrong, and actually the publications that they sent through every door should have been aimed at someone like me. So being the shy and retiring type that I am, I gave them a call to tell them what Ii thought they could be doing differently.

@ResourceHousing soon after started to design, print and mail the Manningham Housing newsletter. It was great when one edition, I was in the print room and noticed my Dad was winner of a gardening competition. Dad hadn’t entered the competition, he wouldn’t know how to, but on an estate walkabout #manningham noticed their garden and entered them into it. Me, their son, printing the very newsletter that Dad was a winner in, gave him a sense of pride and appreciation for what I do, and me, the same sense of pride for seeing him as such a #proudtenant.

Surely this is what social housing is all about, those little moments that bring people together, shared snippets of time that mean so much and make people feel so proud?

The home that gave us so much growing up, continues to be the anchor that brings us all back together. Its a place where we all gravitate back to, and where we can all be together watching our families now grow.

So when I contact you through #twitter #dm #IRL #phone #letter it isn’t solely just about me trying to persuade you to do business with @ResourceHousing, this sector changed my life. It motivates me and keeps me optimistic. We have to keep going, we have to ensure that the sector keeps on providing and adapting (the fact I can help you with that is a bonus!). It may be a print order to you, but to me it optimises what #housingday and being a #proudtenant is all about, because tonight I’ll go and sit in their living room having one of Momma Choudry’s famous dinners, and that makes me proud to be part of an amazing social housing sector.

Family Dad 2 Mum


#CommsHero – Why it had to become a reality!

As we approach the fifth #CommsHero since it began a year ago, I wanted to share my reasons for starting what has become an ever growing community.  I’ve wanted to share this story for some time and now seemed a good time for reasons that will become apparent as you read on.

For many years I have attended events either as a delegate or a speaker and eventually found myself asking the question “Do events have to be like this?”  The simple answer is yes, unless of course you are brave enough to do it yourself.  So I did, with the support of an amazing team @ResourceHousing @ResourcePrint. Day in day out we work with Comms team across the UK who juggle diminishing time and budgets with ever increasing demands for increased ROI.  Only a hero could perform in this environment.  We wanted to create a community that celebrated this hero status and brought together like minded people IRL (in real life) and virtually to share ideas, best practice over a coffee and @krispykremeUK doughnuts. An event for Comms people run by Comms people and funded by Comms people.  #CommsHero is a not for profit event and all the money from ticket sales pay for the event.  

As with any good marketing initiative we started with customer research.  A simple yet often overlooked concept.  Ask your potential customers for their thoughts on the concept of an event with great speakers, an unconference element, lots of time to engage with other attendees and learning in a fun and relaxed environment.  Of course it was also important to ask how much people would pay and if they would be pleased that the events were more accessible (ie not just in London).

The customer feedback was very positive and so it was decided.  Let’s do it!!!  The journey from here was very quick and we went from concept to hosting our first #CommsHero within eight weeks.  That’s some going when you consider what was required:

  • Create a brand name
  • Register domain names and Twitter account. Much to my surprise @CommsHero and was available. 
  • Find speakers and ask someone from the Comms community to chair the event 
  • Find a venue that was easy to get to and could create impact for the first ever #CommsHero 
  • Design all the assets for a multichannel campaign to achieve a minimum of fifty people booked 
  • And lots of other things to get us ready for 13th May 2014

Within a short space of time bookings started to come in and interest for #CommsHero grew quickly with 80 Comms people attending the first event.  The support from leading Comms influencers was overwhelming and further vindicated the decision to make this concept a reality. (to name a few @JohnPopham, @HelReynolds, @GrantLeboff, @PaulBromford, @nickatkin_hht, @Caroline_Torus, , @lyha_LisaP and @nhscommsorg)  We had people asking us to bring #CommsHero to their area as they want to get involved.  The feedback from the first event was very positive and the second event was confirmed for June to be held in North Wales.  Two more followed in October held in Bristol and London.  Overall, we had 250 people attending.  We even had the #HousingDay legend that is @AdeCapon asking us to bring the #CommsHero treatment to the 2014 launch of an amazing campaign.

So what did we learn from #CommsHero and what can other people take away from this?

  • Marketing is more than just Twitter.  Multichannel is important and using the right channels for the right people is how to get your message heard.  We used personalised print, handwritten letters, Twitter, LinkedIn, photos, videos, actually speaking to people IRL (it’s what we did before email and social media) to name but a few tactics.
  • Devoting time to engaging with your customers does matter.  (Not just when you want something from them either).  Those many hours put in to create and engage in conversations with people over the years pays off.  They are more likely to listen and support you when it’s your time.
  • Dare to be different!  There is lots of noise out there and being the most worthy campaign doesn’t guarantee you’ll be heard.  You need to focus on crafting creative and engaging content and being different can make you stand out.  Being different requires commitment. For example handwriting 250 letters (one to each and every attendee of #CommsHero).  I had forgotten what it’s like to get writer’s cramp but it was worth every bit of pain as the engagement and response was amazing.
  • Your campaign should be considered in three phases. Before, During and After.  You have to create a buzz to get people interested, deliver the buzz when people are there and continue the buzz after (unless of course you want to be a one hit wonder).  I suppose that the fifth #CommsHero on 13th May in Manchester is living proof of how to keep a campaign alive.
  • You don’t need a huge team of heroes to do big things.  # CommsHero was delivered by a team that don’t do events full time.  It’s part of many other roles and responsibilities, not dissimilar to the Comms teams we wanted to celebrate.  Don’t get me wrong there were a few late nights planning, creating, printing, tweeting, packing goody bags and driving across the county.  However, when you love your job and it’s a passion we don’t see the hardship.
  • Get your customers involved.  I mean really involved.  We’ve given full access to @CommsHero to some Comms friends and each week people have been guest tweeting their own content.  
  • You can’t please everyone all the time!  

It’s been an epic journey and one which has challenged me but also delivered many memorable moments.  The fifth #CommsHero event is on 13th May in Manchester (exactly one year after it all started).  We only planned to do one event when it all started and the next one may be the last.  Unless of course the Comms community demand an encore…

This is my opportunity to say a big thank you to all the amazing people who have supported #CommsHero and hope everyone gets involved on 13th May, either IRL or online.



“You don’t have to work in comms to be a #commshero.”

A blog from Anthony Manrique, Communciations Officer at Lewisham Homes @Manrique_Comms

Comms. What’s all that about then? Making things look pretty and putting on events, right? Red-penning grammatical errors, updating social media channels and face-palming at brand violations, right? Admittedly, yes, it is a little bit about that. But that’s not all of it.

I recently attended an event which was put on precisely to celebrate top-notch communications and to encourage people to release their inner Comms Hero. On paper it looked pretty much like any other conference, with a good line-up of specialist speakers, some break-out sessions and a bag of swag. But in the flesh it was an entirely different beast. For starters, everything that was actually on paper was brilliantly branded, with attention to detail and a personal touch. And everything that wasn’t on paper was being Tweeted and Vined and broadcast out to be shared with whoever wanted to listen. This is, of course, hugely appealing to comms professionals. It’s important, too, as it’s those finer points that can leave your audience beholden. But aside from making things look pretty, putting on an event and keeping the social media channels buzzing, CommsHero had some interesting things to say.

Using quotes from some of the speakers, I’ll share a little piece of CommsHero. I could have written an essay based on each of the speakers’ content, but that wouldn’t be fun for anyone, so here are some snippets from just a few of them:

“Social media opens doors and influences.”  Nick Atkin, CEO of Halton Housing Trust (HHT)

Nick is known for his strong ideas on digital inclusion and desire to use drones in social housing. He’s paperless and a self-confessed tech addict. Within the housing sector he’s pretty (in)famous. But that is precisely his point: social media has opened doors for him and HHT and given them a pretty loud voice in the sector (he ranked well on the 24 Housing Power Players list). This, of course, means that Nick and HHT are often involved in and informing the debates that matter. That kind of exposure can help to build a reputation among peers and in the industry. He pointed out that 96% of UK journalists scrape their stories from Twitter. So he likes his colleagues to use Twitter and has only one rule for them: “If you wouldn’t say it out loud here in the office, don’t say it on Twitter.”  Far from the caricature that some have portrayed in the press, I found Nick to be an inspiring, engaged and engaging leader with the best interests of residents at heart.

“Batman has his Robin. Every #commshero has a team. Try and embed social media into your existing organisational structure.” Kamales Lardi, Author, lecturer and strategist focusing on social media

There was a lot of talk about social media and its possible benefits. There are plenty of shining examples of customer service successes (and failures, mind) using Twitter and Facebook. You can reply to customers almost instantaneously, and add a human touch. Importantly, social media allows you to tell stories, to show the nuts and bolts of your organisation, and the ways in which you affect the lives of customers. Yes, the communications team can help you to share these messages, and oftentimes will need to see things before they are released into the wild wilderness where packs of reporters are waiting to gnaw a chunk, and trolls are lurking under QWERTY bridges, but…


“You don’t have to work in comms to be a #commshero.”

This is one of the CommsHero slogans from the creators of the event, Resource. There are many brilliant examples of non-comms people being Comms Heroes. It’s frontline staff who have the most interaction with residents. Those who speak to residents on a daily basis, who deal with difficulties and complaints and who represent your organisation, they have the potential to be Comms Heroes. Sure, you might not be able to use InDesign or care for Twitter, but theirr experience and involvement with residents is priceless and should be harnessed. And the same applies for those who work behind the scenes, just in different ways. “Employees are an organisation’s best ambassadors”, as Kamales Lardi also says. Part of our role in communications is to offer guidance and support so that people can share their stories.

Perhaps my favourite quote from the day, though, goes to Luan Wise whose website you should check out and whose quote needs no explanation:

“Social media is not screen to screen, it’s person to person.”

Believe the Hype – An ‘ORIGINal’ View of #CommsHero

A blog about the #CommsHero experience, London 21st October – Julie Humphreys, Head of Communications, Origin Housing @Jules_humphreys

So, the London Comms Hero event. I went with high expectations.  I’d seen the photos and videos on twitter, heard about a song, which scared me as I will never be auditioning for the X Factor,  and had been sent my mask.

The morning kicked off with us singing and having our 5 minute OMG moment, and Sarah was right, if you can achieve that in five minutes what can you achieve back at the office?  All of the speakers in the morning were really inspiring and gave some great tips to people, it’s certainly not rocket science to be a social business, but I think sometimes the start of the journey is scary and you worry about what you’re doing. My top take from the morning was to think about being human and fun, people deal with people.

The afternoon continued with more signing, yay! and more great speakers with their pearls of wisdom. A good unconference session happened and I learnt more about the Homes for Britain campaign, which I’ll be making sure we get behind at Origin.  The afternoon seemed to pass by so quickly that my head was swimming with ideas to bring back to the office. I was lucky enough to have all of the Origin comms team there as well as our Head of Community Development, Sahil, so we’ve all been inspired in different ways now we’re back.

I feel like I have achieved official comms hero status now, some of the things we do are great, some need refining and we’ve got a team feeling fully creative and superhero like!

Making your message shine

A blog about #CommsHero by Caroline King, Head of Communications and Engagement at Helena Partnerships. @CKingAtHelena

I’ve been really lucky to have been involved in two Comms Hero events. I chaired the first and spoke at the last. Both events have a lovely feel good factor and reminded me about the wonder of Comms. I don’t need reminding about this any time of the day or night but to be in a room of people who feel the same is really up lifting.

Take the event itself. Asif and the guys from Resource had a dream. They wanted to create an event that was different and memorable. Slightly cheaper than the rest but with speakers that people would willingly pay and cross the country to see and an atmosphere to remember. And also an event that would make some noise of its own and stand out in a crowded conference place,

The Comms Hero phenomena really caught on although did attract some criticism along the way for being too full on marketing wise. I suspect the anti heroes are the same people droning on about, well why drones are the devil etc.

Having spent 15 hours out of the house yesterday experiencing the London Comms Hero event and tweeting until the wee hours, I should be now be shattered. Well actually I am but I am also really fired up hence a pre dawn blog!

My session in London focussed on internal Comms and I shared some examples of how my team and I have made really dull messages shine. The principles of this are similar to those that Resource have employed with Comms Hero although their topic was not dull in the first place.

The core premise here is to be imaginative, try something new and dare to be different. I know from first hand experience that having a great imagination (and too many lightbulb moments in a day) is both a blessing and a curse. Being an only child who spent her former years playing school, nurses and of course Juliet Bravo I know all about the power of imagination to keep yourself entertained and the rest of the long suffering family members I roped into help me! Fast forward thirty plus years and I spend a considerable amount of time sitting on my hands and trying to stop my imagination from running wild, usually at the most dull or inappropriate moments.

Linked to this I talked at Comms Hero about how it is more effort to be creative than not. With a killer to do list it would be much easier to bang out a few words and to use tried and tested Comms techniques. Sometime that’s ok but here’s the fundamental point. In this day and age we are saturated with messages and media and you simply have to stand out to be heard. If that means using Bert and Ernie to tell the dull but important story of why we need to reduce business mileage or it means splurging a whole £9 on a Halloween costumes to make another dull message shine then we will give it a go. Similarly the story I shared around transformation on a huge scale focussed on the power of engagement and unleashing the staff voice to make amazing things happen. I was also a teeny bit intimidated by some of the amazing creative ideas they had to get their own messages across!

Communications isn’t passive. The whole point of it is to illicit a reaction and make people think, act and remember. A few smiles along the way helps too.

So back to Comms Hero. The inaugural 2014 season might be over for now but I have a sneaky feeling we will be hearing a lot more from these guys in future. Thanks to everyone who has supported Comms Hero and congratulations to the original team with the vision, one which has unleashed a nation of communications super heroes.

Why bother attending #CommsHero ? – Ask @RhiannaAtHelena

This blog is written by Rhianna Campbell of Helena Partnerships. @RhiannaAtHelena

Fresh from uni, I crash land into the head office of Helena Partnerships, looking forward to my new career but feeling slightly intimidated by the world of housing. As a student, the only real experience I have of housing is scrolling through pages of properties at the student letting agency, selecting the cheapest I could find within walking distance of Tesco and Dominos, and fretting about bills thereafter for the next two years.

At least I’ll be eased in slowly, I think.


Fifth week on the job, and I’m sent to a conference in a foreign country. (Okay, so it was only Wales, but that doesn’t sound as dramatic). As a recent graduate and a newbie to both housing and, let’s be honest, the world of 9-5 jobs, conferences have always conjured up images of sharply suited businessmen and women, clutching leather briefcases and curtly discussing issues I didn’t know existed.

Resource Housing’s Comms Hero laughs in the face of this.

Caroline (@CKingAtHelena), head of communications here at Helena, chaired the last event, and from the Twitter coverage, I could see her twirling in a cape, posing in a cut-out superhero stand, and eating hero-themed Krispy Kremes.

And yet I was still surprised when I arrived at Comms Hero and was greeted by Asif (@asifchoudry), one of the organisers of the event, who promptly handed me a superhero-themed goodie bag and encouraged me to shove on some brightly coloured pants on over my trousers.

I probably should have twigged it wasn’t going to be your average conference, from the personalised superhero invite, ticket and handwritten note. The regular tweets from the dedicated @commshero Twitter account were all clearly not from your average, stiff-upper lipped conference organisers- no, they were from someone with the attraction to superheroes of a child, but the seasoned marketing genius of an adult that paves the way for an entirely new breed of conference.

Combined, this creates a fantastic “un-conference”, where everyone involved can let their hair (and capes!) down and chat about their experience in housing communications. There were some wonderful speakers, who shared their highs and lows in the field, and even a singer who had us warbling along to a Comms Hero theme tune she’d penned. (The video is online. I pity you if you can hear me somewhere in there).

On top of this, the goodie bags contained personalised business cards for every delegate, which meant I came away with a mass of new contacts. This is important for anyone, but for me, as a newbie to housing, I welcomed the opportunity to make connections with people in the same profession up and down the country.

So to conclude, if you fancy a fun day out, where you can stuff your face with glittery Krispy Kremes, parade around with your pants on over your trousers and yet still come away with a portion of knowledge wrapped up alongside your superhero finger puppet in your goodie bag, go to the next Comms Hero event.

You won’t regret it.

Scandal surrounds #CommsHero London on 21st October

All about Marketing and Comms

A blog from Carli Harper-Penman,  Director of Communications & Public Affairs at Moat Homes @MoatHomes who is the chair for #CommsHero London on 21st October

I’ve been watching Scandal recently. A lot of it. For some reason it wasn’t on my radar when it first aired in the UK. Which is unusual, because as a devotee of Sky Atlantic, and all that orbits it, I really should have noticed it. Anyway, I’ve had some catching up to do. And with some time on my hands (enabled in part by post-wedding/honeymoon nesting and in part by recovery from tonsillitis), I’ve indulged in a binge on seasons one and two. Now, it’s a bit trashy I grant you, but it’s great escapist TV, and it’s got to be the only drama in recent times that casts a professional communicator and lobbyist as the hero of the hour.

Talking to a colleague in the office…

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