by Jude Tipper
“Hey Siri, navigate me to a convenient central point in the Northern part of the country…”
My geography skills aren’t the finest, yet somehow I landed the job of finding a suitable venue for the northern Comms Unplugged and CIPR Health collaboration that was due to take place this summer.
As Vice Chair of the CIPR Health group I needed to pull my weight, so I’d resigned myself to poring over maps so I could at least offer a couple of sensible solutions. I didn’t want to look like a total dumbass in front of people (da CommsUnplugged creators) who hold down exceedingly busy day jobs whilst smashing their way through their side passion too.
And then COVID hit. And, like the rest of our lives, we had to quickly rethink plans. But, you know what? I reckon this is one thing that really did turn out for the better.
Earlier this year CIPR Health partnered with Comms Unplugged as the headline sponsor of their 2020 main event. We were keen to bring something new to CIPR members, something that the now well-established Comms Unplugged offers. Focusing on wellbeing as much as on personal development; fostering a sense of community and a feeling of belonging, it’s different from the usual PR industry networking drinks
Alongside sponsoring the main event in that now-famous Dorset field, we also planned on holding a couple of collaborations in the summer (hence my map task) to offer a taste of being unplugged.
Yet, with crisis comes opportunity. So, our ‘in person’ events quickly turned into webinars and together we set to the task of cajoling some brilliant people to be part of our three-event series.
We could reach more people than physical meet-ups would have allowed, nobody had to travel – they could ‘unplug’ from the comfort of their own home (ok, ok, there’s a bit of a dichotomy at play with the whole online unplugging but, trust me, it worked.)
Over 220 participants tuned in to three sold-out webinars. We collectively basked in professional expertise and knowledge – from Microsoft and NHS Digital on the use of Teams, to crisis and recovery comms with some of the best pros in the country, plus staff motivation and behavioural change in-between. Jenni Field, CIPR President, shared top tips on continuing our professional development (and she scored an impressive 100% high rating from participants). And all this it was topped off with a splendid dollop of energy from Bruce Daisley, who blew us away with his insights into workplace culture and the opportunities the pandemic brings.
And, in true unplugged style, the emphasis wasn’t just on professional learning – we focussed on our wellbeing too. Each webinar began with much-needed yoga as we uncrooked our necks, yoga-ed our eyeballs (yes, that’s really a thing) and relaxed our poor weary home-working backs. We learnt how to chill through drawing and how to wind down with Fresh Air Fridays. We even had a lovely introduction to birdsong (which meant I knew exactly who to turn to when I had a magpie stuck in my chimney the day after the webinar. Don’t worry, dear reader, it survived.)
Did our collaboration work? Judging by the rate of participation and interaction during the webinars, the social media praise that followed and the positive feedback evaluation, the whole thing has been a resounding success. We’ve even picked up some new CIPR members along the way.
Here’s just a few of the comments from the feedback survey:
- Best Zoom call of lockdown! Feel better than when it started!
- Loved it, such a wonderful community and supportive network.
- I like the relaxed style – it’s a nice contrast after a frantic day of intense calls and video meetings!
- Loved the whole approach to it, short bursts of different activity.
- Thank you so much for organising these webinars. I woke up this morning feeling very positive with lots of ideas.
- I’ve been able to attend all three and found them all great. Both from a learning and a wellbeing perspective, these webinars have been superb.
- This was a great pick-me-up, with really useful professional development snippets.
- Thank you to everyone involved in all three CIPR Health and Comms Unplugged sessions. Highlights of lockdown.
- Great event – rich information and rich in wellbeing.
COVID has brought much into sharp focus and, for me, it has never been so important to keep learning new tricks (just as Sally, Georgia and Darren have done with mastering webinar hosting. Bravo guys!).
Alongside, and because of, this need to continue learning at breakneck speed, it’s also incredibly important to ponder your own mental health, wellbeing and resilience.
If you’re a CIPR member I’d urge you to sign up to Comms Unplugged emails and think about your wellbeing just as much as you do your professional development. And, for unpluggers, please consider membership of CIPR – and keep an eye on the Health Group on LinkedIn and on Twitter. We have an excellent mental health subgroup and are always looking for volunteers who want to help make a difference to the collective wellbeing of the PR and comms industry.
So, back to how I started this post – looking for a central point where transport networks converge. Instead, these webinars have been the virtual meeting in the middle: the meeting of wellbeing and professional development; the meeting of Unpluggers with CIPRers; the meeting of like minds. It’s this meeting and incredible sense of community that I’m taking away from the webinar series.
CIPR Health has been proud to partner on these webinars and we’re even prouder to sponsor Comms Unplugged for its rescheduled return next year, 10-12 September 2021.
“Siri, navigate me to that field in Dorset…”
Jude Tipper is assistant head of communications network at NHS Digital and vice chair of the CIPR health group.
You can watch the webinar series here:
— Tuesday 28th July —