A simple idea is sometimes the best

Blog post by Graham Miliward

Tuesday 4 July 2017

In late 2015, a few Sheffield-based communications people, me included, thought it’d be great to get public sector communicators to join-up

We saw this as an opportunity to network, share ideas, learn from each other and simply, just have a chat. I’d heard about groups elsewhere such as Oatcake camp and Brewcamp, and felt there was an opportunity to do something in Sheffield, and an audience ready to get involved.

We talked lots and developed our plans, and on 17 March 2016, Sheffield Communicators was born, when we held our first meeting in an elegant wood-panelled room in Sheffield Town Hall.

And now, over a year later, we’re still here and the group’s growing.

We’ve held 10 sessions around the city, usually meeting rooms but we did go to a fire station for one of them, and wandered round outside on a cold December day for another.

We’ve:

-Heard about LinkedIn and how organisations use it
-Talked about people engagement and how it’s approached in different ways
-Learned how to take better photos using our smartphones (that was the outside bit!)
-Had an insight into Herd of Sheffield (an art trail of colourful elephants around the city during summer 2016, which led to over half a million pounds being raised for Sheffield Children’s Hospital)

We started out with 30 enthusiastic people at our first meeting, and now have around 80 on our mailing list. Many of the city’s public sector organisations are represented – government departments, Sheffield City Council, the NHS, South Yorkshire Police, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue and the city’s two universities. Collectively, it’s a massive range of skills and experience.

And, as with all good communications activity, we’re about to evaluate what we’ve done. Hopefully, it’ll show that it’s all been worthwhile, and give us a plan for the future. It’s the participants who make it work so well with their interest and enthusiasm.

So where to next? Grow the membership by getting more organisations along, widen the range of topics (behaviour change and smartphone video production are on the horizon), more sharing of ideas, external recognition (thanks for reading!)

My advice if you’re thinking of doing something similar?

-Find out what people want – you won’t meet everyone’s needs in one go, so a variety of topics works well.
-Look out for ideas – many of our sessions have developed because a member has said they’ve got something to share.
-Be ready to sell – people want to know what they’ll get from it – what we’ve done has helped contribute towards CPD and in many cases has assisted people with their day jobs.

And please get in touch – we’ve got lots more advice to offer, and you’re welcome to come to a future session and see what we do.

Graham Millward is an insight officer at DWP. He’s helped Sheffield Communicators to develop alongside Vicki Dawson and John Jessup from DWP, and Jane Fullerton and Jackie O’Brien from the Home Office.
You can follow the group on Twitter @Shefcomms.