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Comms Champions – engaging colleagues in comms activities

12 January 2021

As a charity with very limited comms resource (just me!), we’ve had to find ways to make a big impact with a small budget. Having to do a lot with little time and develop ways of working smarter and flexibly to meet our comms priorities and goals has been essential.

Since joining the Citizens Advice service in a newly created role at the end of 2019, my aim has been to raise the profile of strategic communications and ensure that everyone recognises the value it offers in gaining support for our service and achieving positive change in our communities.

While I may be the only person with communications in my job title, communications is everyone’s responsibility and this mindset is something we have been working towards and encouraging.

All staff and volunteers are encouraged to share positive client outcomes internally, offer advice on trends for local campaigns, and get involved in creating content such as short videos for social and media case studies. Since our move to home/remote working, it’s been more of a challenge to engage colleagues in these activities as demand for our service, and therefore our workloads have increased.

So, how can you engage busy colleagues in comms activities internally and externally when it may not be their top priority?

One thing that worked well for us in 2020 was identifying Comms Champions across the organisation.

With almost 180 staff and volunteers across our locations and services, I wanted to identify individuals working in different teams and different roles who would act as voluntary Comms Champions. They were responsible for sharing success stories and client outcomes from their team with the whole organisation, getting involved in creating content and being a ‘go to’ person for comms support.

How we identified Comms Champions

The first step was to get buy-in from our Leadership Team. I re-shared our Comms Strategy, outlining how the roles would help us reach our strategic aims and link into our wider Business Plan. I outlined what the Comms Champion role would involve, and the level of commitment required.

This buy-in was important, as we needed supervisors and managers to support and encourage Comms Champions within their teams. Happily, the initiative was well received, and we were then able to identify people for the role!

The champions were identified in several ways – I asked managers to speak to members of their teams who might be interested and have the capacity to support. I contacted several colleagues, who had an interest in comms and had shared creative ideas and content previously. I also put a call out to our staff and volunteer newsletter to identify anyone else who was keen to put themselves forward.

We ended up with eight Comms Champions, with good representation from across the organisation. From then, I was able to connect with the appointed champions, understand their availability and any specific skills they were keen to bring to the role, and get things started!

How we share the results

As I started to work with the Champions, I knew it was very important to share the results and impact of the work they were doing if we were to keep people motivated and active in the role. To keep both the Comms Champions and wider teams engaged, I shared the results and impact of our comms activity on a regular basis.

Each month success stories and positive outcomes are shared internally, through Workplace. This helps us to stay connected while working remotely, see the impact our work has in our communities, and encourages others to share their own content too.

We produce and share a GIF each month internally, highlighting our social media and comms impact. By sharing the reach and engagement of our content, like how many times an advice post was viewed through Instagram or where it was shared and commented on, we’re able to highlight the impressive reach of social media. It also shows how producing one-to-many content can actually ease pressure on our service, with social media becoming a vital part of our service delivery and advice provision.

Our Comms Champions support our organisation by sharing advice trends, that we can then create external content for and share when there is a real need. For example, our Redundancy Advice video was filmed and shared online when we were seeing a big increase in calls from people needing help around this issue.

We run reports each month and measure the impact of our external content, so that we can do more of what works well, and less of what doesn’t. This means we make the most of our limited time and resources, producing high impact content.

The Comms Champion roles have helped to raise the profile of comms within our organisation. We’ve discovered people with creative skills such as blogging and video editing, that we can tap into and utilise to increase engagement and impact. Champions have said that they’ve enjoyed being able to use skills that perhaps don’t form part of their day-to-day job and they have a more creative outlet.

To recruit your own comms champions here are three top tips:

  1. Be clear about the commitment involved. Everyone is busy, so it’s best to be clear right from the start about how much time the role is likely to take.
  2. Explain the purpose of the role and how it can have a positive impact. When recruiting, show how the role fits into both your comms strategy, as well as your wider business goals.
  3. Communicate with managers and supervisors. This ensures that managers understand the value in the new roles and they can provide support and encouragement.

Image: Engin Akyurt on Pexels

Hayley Wright

Communications and Engagement Lead, Citizens Advice

Hayley is the Communications and Engagement Lead for Citizens Advice Stockport, Oldham, Rochdale and Trafford in Manchester. She is responsible for communicating strategic priorities, developments and client stories of the charity, ensuring the message is clear, consistent and impactful.