COMMS LESSONS: Sometimes a straight ‘no’ works… and 24 other things comms people have learned in 2019


So, 2019 is taking shape as a year of huge change, disruption and uncertainty.

But the stoicism of public sector comms people still astounds.

The Public Sector Comms Headspace Facebook page is proving daily to be a place where people can let off steam, ask a question and learn.

As an exercise, I asked the question of what people the best lesson learned in 2019 was.

Historians may look back in search of Brexit, AI, machine learning and a change in perspective on social media. But actually, the learning has all been quite big picture. I’m struck by how timeless things can be.

Here’s 25 crowdsourced gems with some reproduced as inspiring quote memes.

Writing it out to learn in public

“I went to UK Gov Camp on Saturday and I learned an interesting lesson about weeknotes and how they can improve team communication and be a good learning tool and create a community working it all out in public. The lesson I learned is give them a try.” – Kate Norman.

Projects don’t go in straight lines

“Projects are not strictly linear. Thay are more of “a big ball of wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff” and you are not a failure if your simple and well researched 1234 step plans ends up going 21724314 as long as it meets it’s purpose in the end.” – Natari Venning.

Okra still stinks in 2019

“That, no matter what you do to it, okra is still horrible.” – Rachel Rutherford.

Look after yourself first

“Best lesson I’ve learnt is “look after yourself and your own well-being. If you don’t, you are no good at looking after others.” – Donna Jordan

Pace your time off

“Don’t use all your leave up over summer or over Christmas if you don’t need or have to. I had just over a week off in January and it was bliss.” – Nick Moore

Connect over the web

“One tweet can bind people together with a shared mission. A group photo and message after a meeting somehow affirmed plans to build a social innovator community – and now it feels real.” – Caroline Kenyon.


Your team matters

Your team is your most wanted gift and powerful tool. Whoever they are, wherever they’re from, whatever they bring – your experiences and your work life hangs on what that team is.” – Joy Hale.

Trust matters

“If you ain’t got trust, you ain’t got nothing.” – Dave Glanville.

Play the long game

“Sometimes you have to compromise and play the long game.” – Georgie Agass.

Listen to help people where they want to go

“Listen and try to understand what the person wants to achieve and not engage on what they think is the solution. That way you can offer deliver something better that they hadn’t thought of.” – Mandy Pearse.

Plan in peace

“When everyone else is on leave, go to work. It’s quiet and you can get some planning done, in relative peace.”

A good comms strategy works

“Never underestimate the power of a good corporate comms strategy. It helps people to connect to their work and creates shared sense of direction that pulls the team together.” – Natasha Bolton


Remember its just work

“Do your work well, with passion and pride, and aim to love what you do, but don’t sweat it too much if things don’t always go your way – try and remember it’s ‘just’ work. And as Ferris Bueller said: ‘Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it.'” – Sara Hamilton.

Skills are transferable

“The skills you need to be a great Comms officer are transferable. Be nosey, be available and be ready to use your talent in other places within your organisation.” – Carolyne Mitchell.

Just ask

“If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” Will Lodge

Stick to what’s right

If it’s not right, say so. It might be scary to go against the grain but if you stick to your values you can live with a lighter heart knowing you did the right thing.” – Rachel King.

Delete Twitter

I discovered that you will no longer get angry at twonks on Twitter if you don’t go on it and delete it from your phone.” – Paul Fearn.

Look after yourself

“You can only give your best if you are looking after yourself.” – Amanda Coleman.

Weather lesson #1

“Feel free to quote me, Dan. ‘Rock salt is not actual fairy dust.'” – Alan James.

Weather lesson #2

“That everyone’s a f*****g meteorologist.” – Matthew Dunn.

No. Just no.

“Sometimes a straight ‘no’ works wonders – mostly for my sanity.” – Esme Yuill.

Space, please

“Anything is possible given a little time and space.” – Louise Alabaster

Heart beats mind

#”I’ve learnt from public meetings that it’s heart over mind every time and people will lament the loss of local services even if the truth is they are underused and inefficient.” – Tamsin May.

Keep on #1

“Keep on keeping on. The work you do in the darkness – the extra hours, the negotiating, the missed lunch breaks, the occasional sob in the loo, the plain English fight, the care for good comms – will always come into the light.” – Emma Donovan.

Keep on #2

“Never give up on something you passionately believe in.” – Annie Davidsen.

The Public Sector Comms Headspace is a closed Facebook group for public sector people and can be found here.


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