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Different is good – reflections from the North taster

Helena Hornbyby Helena Hornby

I love Dorset. Absolutely love it. I love it even more now that it’s home to Comms Unplugged, which I also love. Thing is, Dorset is a long way from where I live – Manchester. There are a few of us intrepid northerners who’ve made the epic journey south for two days and nights in the field, and we’d discussed the idea of Comms Unplugged North when sitting round the campfire sipping gin and eating pizza. It wasn’t something we were expecting to happen any time soon, but more of a seed of an idea for the future.

So when I was asked to host the first Comms Unplugged North taster session together with my fellow northerner Josephine Graham (from the other side of th’ Pennines) I jumped at the chance. Both of us have been passionate about the ethos of Unplugged from the very start, and have got so much from being part of ‘the movement’ that we were excited to pass on some of that passion to other comms professionals.

There are plenty of great blogs on the Comms Unplugged website about the many benefits of pressing pause on your socials for a while, so I won’t go into them here. However, I did want to take a moment to share some of my thoughts after our taster session last week. It’s been a week now, and I’ve needed that long to process and digest it all! I have had quite a lot of thoughts, so bear with me while I craft them into something vaguely coherent!

Sharing is powerful

North taster Josephine and HelenaThere was a moment where I felt quite overwhelmed during the morning: I observed people coming together and sharing the experience, and that was moving. They opened themselves to what we had to say, shared a little about themselves and shared their thoughts about work. Then they shared the open space on our walk, shared words, but also shared quiet time. Then they shared cake! Next they shared problems, issues and ideas, and then came the sharing of support and creativity. They shared email addresses and socials. Now they have a shared sense of community and know that people like them know what it’s like, and just get it. We did that. We helped them do that. We helped people.

When you get it, you get it

Looking after your wellbeing and mental health isn’t self-indulgent. It’s not a jolly. It’s real personal development and growth with tangible benefits in both your personal and professional life. A lot of people haven’t got that yet. A lot of senior, high-flying people who would probably really benefit from some mindfulness haven’t got that yet. Yes, there’s plenty of lip-service paid to wellbeing but how many employers can truly say they’re doing something practical about it? Thing is, when you get it and it clicks, you come to hugely appreciate those benefits, and you become somewhat evangelical about sharing them with others. Sometimes that’s at the risk of seeming a bit daft amongst peers and management! But what we did at our taster day no doubt had a positive impact on our Unpluggers’ work. It makes sense and I would love more employers to get it.

Different is good

North taster smiley facesThere’s a well-known quote, attributed to Albert Einstein, that goes: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Comms has changed rapidly in the last few years, and the pace of change shows no sign of slowing. If we’re to keep up with that change and survive, even thrive, we’ve got to embrace it. To quote a wonderful woman, my mum: “Everything changes – sometimes for the better, sometimes not, but it changes.” So it’s no good doing what we’ve always done and expecting different results, like banging out a press release and expecting the press to run our story. That really came out in our taster session – people have the urge to change and do something different. So I say, give different things a go. They might not work, but you’ll have learned from it. Or they’ll fly and you’ll be praised for being bold and innovative, and that might just prompt those around you to look at things differently too.

You can bring a different approach to your learning and wellbeing with Comms Unplugged – it worked for me and now my career is different, my mental health is different, and my whole life is different. That sounds a bit dramatic, but it’s true! Different really is good.

If you go, you’ll get it. Promise. It’ll bring a new perspective to your life and work.

And finally, when you share with other people in that field you’ll feel the spark – sharing the experience of unplugging is powerful.

Helena Hornby is a Communications Officer with Transport for Greater Manchester. She’s an original unplugger since 2017, a master baker, a musician and a gin botanicals expert (ask her about this in the field – seriously!).