public sector

Commscamp 2015 round-up

A plate of cupcakes decorated with piped icing and fruit

Commscamp – the annual unconference for communications-types in and around the public sector. I went, I found it hard to choose between the sessions on offer, I listened to interesting people talk about a host of communications topics, I ate cake.

What did I learn?

  • the organising team make running an unconference look easy, which takes huge skill considering the amount of time and effort they must have put in to pull everything together – huge round of applause to them all, especially for the work that means tickets are free
  • the more you pitch sessions, the less nerve-wracking it gets – feel the fear and do it anyway
  • it is impossible to get to all of the sessions you’d like to at an unconference
  • I love that nobody is ‘just’ anything, you are you and know your stuff whatever your job title may be
  • there are plenty of people out there giving things a try and they’re happy to share their learning
  • you will never have time to speak to all of the people that you’d like to, and it’s hard to use real names if you know someone by their twitter handle
  • that I can’t condense what I heard in the sessions I attended into one post, so have captured bulletpoints from:
  • the unconference format is one I enjoy, and I’m going to find it increasingly difficult to go to traditional conferences and just sit and listen
  • I wish there was something similar in East Anglia, and I’m working up the courage to sound people out about viability – starting small 
  • Pimms cupcakes are pretty easy to make and very tasty indeed

Photo: Commscamp15-033 by W N Bishop via Flickr


Envelope announcements

Advertising and branding on envelopes, a great idea that plenty of organisations do successfully. Sometimes though, it can go awry, like it seems to have done for Transport for London recently.

Taking to parenting website Mumsnet, a pregnant Londoner recounted how she had sent off for a Transport for London ‘Baby on Board’ badge – which acts as a visual cue when asking for a seat on crowded trains. She requested it be sent to her work address. Rather than arriving in a plain brown envelope as one had in a previous pregnancy, the badge turned up in a ‘Mind the bump’  emblazoned envelope complete with a picture of the badge – in front of colleagues that she hadn’t mentioned her pregnancy to yet. Not good.

The branding is due to a commercial partnership between TfL and online retailer Not On The High Street. Commercialisation is the name of the game in the public sector at the moment. Ever decreasing funding means that as well as cutting costs and becoming more efficient, projects that bring in extra income are a big focus. 

Partnering with a big and well-regarded online retailer seems a good match for TfL, and the branding is nicely done. Unfortunately, with the envelope, they seem to have missed the fact that many women apply for a badge in their first trimester, a time when they may not look visibly pregnant yet could feel absolutely awful, but are not ready to tell everyone they know about their pregnancy.

With pregnancy discrimination a real issue for some women, this branded envelope could have caused a real problem. As it is, there seem to have been no repercussions in this case, apart from a complaint to TfL apparently resulting in the folllowing paragraph being added to their online badge request page:

Baby on Board badges come in branded envelopes. Please make sure you order your badge to a suitable address if you have not yet announced your pregnancy.

I wonder how many envelopes they’ve already had printed. There’s a lesson there for us all.