Yes, I’ll probably get a strongly worded email from accounts for this headline and no, I’ve not lost all sense of business acumen either. Maybe my focus has widened after a big birthday this year, but it’s a headline I have increasing belief in.
This year, I’ve taken a more strategic role within the business and this has involved being less hands on with day-to-day account work. I’ll admit it’s been a challenge to let go (as I’m sure some of the Tank team will testify to) but it’s been an important thing to do in terms of moving the business forward. However, I’ve always thrived on the actual doing and I’m a big believer that you can’t lead without continuing to evolve and being able to roll your sleeves up when needed.
For me, that was something that I needed to balance out, so I started to explore other ways to put my skills to good use.
Having worked alongside the Notts LGBT+ Network on a rebranding project at our sister agency Warbox, I quickly realised the great work they were doing for the local LGBTQ+ community – something that I’m personally very passionate about. As a completely volunteer run charity, resources are limited and the Network had no real outbound comms strategy, so I saw this as a clear opportunity for me to lend my support.
I signed up as a volunteer and started running the PR and campaigns group, developing a low-level strategy that could be realistically managed by a group of volunteers, many of whom work full time too.
It’s an approach that seems to be working. We now have a volunteer base more engaged with PR and social media, developing fresh ideas. Coverage levels and overall engagement are now much higher and, more importantly, consistent, and that in itself is a motivator as individuals start to see the impact the strategy is having.
Before I even started as a full volunteer, I actually nominated the Network for a King’s Award for Voluntary Service, which is the highest recognition any voluntary organisation can win in the UK. Not only did the Network receive the award, but I was also able to help them implement a comms strategy around the accolade, which resulted in widespread TV, radio and online coverage. Personally, I think receiving a Royal seal approval in the first couple of months in a role is not a bad effort.
Volunteering for the first time, I knew there would probably be a big degree of personal satisfaction and the inevitable ‘feel good factor’, but I probably underestimated how it would also benefit me work wise.
I set out to find ways to put my PR skills to good use and I found a natural home for that but I’ve also developed a host of new skills that I’ve been able to bring back into Tank. Working with a group of volunteers from different backgrounds, and all working in various sectors, has certainly made me evaluate my own communications skills and I think I now have a more flexible approach to communicating within Tank as a result. Equally having no fixed management structure at the charity really does highlight the importance of compromise and being able to listen, and more importantly understand, everyone’s views. I’m taking a bit more time now at work to listen and sit back and think before vocalising my own thoughts.
I guess what I’m trying to say in this blog is that a lot of people take up volunteering positions to have a role and purpose outside of work, which is a completely valid reason. In agency land, we also sometimes assume that skills development comes purely from the day-to-day work on big fee paying accounts. However, it’s important not to miss those learning opportunities that you can take into the workplace when volunteering, and if it provides personal satisfaction and career self-development at the same time, surely that’s not a bad thing?