25th November 2013

Apprentices ‘stand up’ at The Comedy Store

By Samantha Hutchinson on Monday November 25, 2013

Tuesday 19th November saw me hot footing it over to The Comedy Store for the UK Public Sector Communications Awards – two milky coffees and a quick schmooze later, we headed to our seats and eagerly awaited the announcement of the hashtag for the event.

‘#pscawards’ was all we needed to hear – the smartphones emerged instantly and the free WiFi took an immediate beating.

Being the social media sponge that I am, I was really keen to hear what the guest speakers had to say.

First up was Paul Willis, weighing in on the best ways to be productive in modern PR/communications and sharing his opinions of the possible downfalls of online listening as a method of communication.

From a social media standpoint it’s hard not to see online listening as a relevant tool seeing as it’s a constant springboard into wider conversation, but it was really interesting to look at it from a different angle.

The second speaker was Amanda Coleman of Greater Manchester Police (GMP), discussing the ins and outs of GMP’s recent social media overhaul including the difficulties they faced in the beginning.

She explained how Police officers are programmed to tell, not to listen: “We wanted to be a trusted voice… we would be that point of contact and deal with what was taking place.”

However, perhaps the most inspiring of Amanda’s words were those with which she rounded off her time on stage: “To innovate, you have to take risks.”

Thirdly we heard from Andy Green, beginning his speech by telling us that we’re “museums whose job it is to be as compelling as possible.”

He commented on how we need two-way communication in order to be successful in PR and we need to respect the complexity that has arisen from recent changes: “Every bit of PR is now integrated, we can’t control but what we can do is influence.”

Andy’s approach to the language of PR was really interesting and he encouraged us all to be creative and not to fear the abnormal.

The final speaker we were lucky enough to hear from was a member of the NHS Blood and Transplant communications team, who shared with us their campaign to encourage blood donations – a rather dry subject that they have to communicate repeatedly: “It’s about finding new ways to communicate the same message.”

A particularly useful aspect of this speech was the advice for when you feel as though a campaign is going wrong (I may not be a seasoned social media professional but I’m no stranger to the sinking feeling when your best laid plans aren’t doing what they should!): “When you look back it will look fantastically organised, campaigns never feel like they’re running smoothly at the time… you have to be flexible.”

Now, all of this was exciting, insightful, inspiring… but there was of course a cherry on top of the awards cake.

Following in the footsteps of these excellent guest speakers, it was The Juice Academy’s turn on stage. Joined by Carly, Liam and myself, Sandy took to the stage to introduce the apprenticeship before handing over to us so that we could proudly fly the flag.

We perched on our stools in front of a professional audience and answered questions on all things social media, proving that our age does anything but hold us back in the workplace.

The feedback we received was incredible and it was great to hear the compliments flooding in – it’s easy to feel a little bit lost when you’re a teenager in an industry led by adults.

The event organiser, Rowan Jamieson, was among those who shared their praise (not that I’m showing off): “The Juice Academy apprentices were absolutely fantastic and there’s been some great feedback on Twitter. I hope they found the day useful and enjoyable!”