So much more than information sharing

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As part of our Does comms need a rebrand? series, I’ve been interviewing fellow comms folk to showcase the unique talents, backgrounds and experiences of people working in the sector.

Jo Dodd is Communications Officer at Peace Direct – an international charity dedicated to supporting local people to stop war and build lasting peace in some of the world’s most fragile countries.

Here’s what we talked about…

What was your journey into non-profit comms?

This is my first job out of University, so my journey has only just begun! I discovered a passion for non-profit comms while I was still studying – first through a summer internship at an NGO in Guatemala and then by setting up an initiative with some friends to celebrate refugees settling in Edinburgh.

How would you describe what you do to a friend of a friend you meet at the pub?

I find it hard. There is so much to the role, especially when you work in a small team. I usually end up rattling off a list of responsibilities! When I think about it now, I would like to say something like, “The comms team is responsible for crafting the organisation’s public image.”

How would your partner/best friend/parents describe what you do to their friends?

My Dad once said to me, “We all communicate, what is your job?” These days, I think he would say PR – it seems to be the bit people get the most and what they typically associate with comms. Because it’s hard to describe exactly what I do (as it varies so much day-to-day), I often talk more about the organisation than the role.

What is the best thing about working in the sector?

It’s got to be the opportunities you get to learn new skills. My role is hard to describe because it’s so varied – but that’s one of the things I absolutely love about the job. Working in a small non-profit means you get to experiment with communicating in so many different creative ways – I’m currently working on projects including comic books, animation, videos and blog articles! No one day is the same.

What (if anything) is not so enjoyable?

The things I love about the role are probably the most challenging as well! Being ‘on call’ for anything that needs comms input and having to prioritise that alongside ongoing activities can be hard. You’re also expected to be creative 24 hours a day – I love that people value my creativity but when you’re not in that mindset it can be hard to pull it out of the bag!

What one quality do you think all comms people share?

I’ve found that people working in non-profit comms tend to be quite humble… though I wouldn’t put myself in that category! The reason I say that is that you don’t get recognition for your work in the sense that you’re a bit of a ghost writer, producing comms on other people’s behalf. This can be a bit disheartening – you don’t get to build your profile and showcase your talents like in other creative professions.

What are you most proud of in your career?

That’s quite a hard one…I think it would have to be the refugee initiative I mentioned earlier. We matched refugees living in Edinburgh with local artists to help them tell their story. We wanted to help people understand the challenges faced by refugees, to spark understanding and empathy. It was quite a unique project at the time, but even though now there are lots more amazing organisations supporting refugees across the UK, it is still going strong.

If someone asked you how they could show the value of comms to their board, what advice would you give them?

I think it’s important to show the integral role that comms plays in an organisation. Imagine if we took the comms team away – how would this impact on our outputs, our public image or – importantly – the people we support? Once we understand this ourselves, we can convince others too.

Do you think comms needs a rebrand?

Yes! But I’m not sure how… bringing together different voices of people working in the sector would be a good start. And finding a concise way to describe what we do – both as a sector and in our individual roles. We need to get better at our elevator pitch and be proud of our achievements. We need to show that comms is so much more than information sharing – it’s key to making change.

If you work in non-profit comms and would be up for a chat that would be published here, please get in touch

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