THURSDAY 20 OCT 2022 3:41 PM


The Comms Reboot unconference, held in Birmingham this month, hoped to "inject energy" into internal communications practices. The day was filled with enthusiasm and hummed with creativity, while still addressing serious issues facing the field.

The Comms Reboot unconference, held in Birmingham this month, was a day as jam-packed with the all the enthusiasm and creativity as the word ‘unconference’ would suggest, designed to "inject energy" into internal communications practices. While a typical conference may begin with attendees filing formally into a room and then waiting with pens poised to hear the set schedule for the day, Comms Reboot attendees were barely in their seats before host Jenni Field, founder of Redefining Communications, was encouraging them to bellow ideas across the room. The empty timetable which loomed over the room, initially distracting by its uncustomary blankness, was crammed with ideas by 11am.

Field capered around the room with a contagious enthusiasm and tables bedecked with sweets ensured discussions remained energised and punchy throughout the day. Field reiterated that, in accordance with unconference rules, attendees must make use of their "two feet" and freely leave or attend the sessions as preferred. As a result, discussions felt fresh, driven by people brimming with opinions and ideas (with those feeling less engaged quietly departing for whatever other sessions piqued their interest). Many enthused that Comms Reboot was a space where their work in internal communications felt “understood”. Topics proposed included ‘hybrid working’, ‘purpose and trust’ and ‘creativity in comms’.

Too often, ‘awareness days’ feel like nothing more than a tick-box exercises that ultimately amount to little tangible change, was the first point made at a morning ‘diversity and inclusion’ session. Upon being questioned on what tangible change would look like, an attendee responded: “More diversity in leadership positions and more attention to where, over time, new hires end up within the company.” Despite a growing change in mood around diversity, coupled with pressure from younger recruits, many at the session agreed that there was still a sense of ‘fear’ around approaching the topic. Rather than blanketing, generalised ‘awareness days’ or statements, companies need to “begin with the individual”, someone stated.

The urgency for more personal and individualised internal communications seemed to be a thread through the day’s other sessions. Perhaps in the wake of the pandemic, communications professionals are feeling more responsible for the experience of the individual; one unconference attendee claimed that they felt there was more sensitivity to employees’ mental health and wellbeing post-pandemic.

In a session on ‘change comms’, it was observed that ‘truthful’ communications differentiated a trusted organisation from an untrusted one. With the findings of this year’s Edelman Trust Barometer showing that 60% of people are inclined to “distrust until they see evidence something is trustworthy”, honest and bespoke communications is critical even within large organisations. The importance of the individual extends even to leadership, with one attendee emphasising that figures in leadership positions need to lead by example and embody the values they promote.