public relations

Impactful communications
with an Agile twist

Nick Eyriey, editor at Business Cornwall, asked me to write an opinion piece for their Just A Thought page. I was only too happy to oblige by writing about my current object of obsession.

I love Post-it notes. There, I’ve said it. I also love my children, my family, my friends; in fact my daughter uses them to leave me little messages around the house. They also helped me to bag a new boyfriend, but that’s another story.

Post it notes, and their good friend the Sharpie pen, have transformed the way I work.

I have recently been sharing my love of Post-its, and in particular how I arrange them, with other businesses – so they too can increase their stationery expenditure, get excited about the sticky note section in WH Smiths and fill their desk drawers with brightly coloured pens.

That’s because I am an Agile adopter. Agile actually goes beyond Post-its notes and whiteboards. It’s a way of working that started life in the software industry, and has now been picked up across other sectors, from legal and healthcare to public sector and even the Church.

I was lucky enough to attend Agile on the Beach in July, with my Agile PR hat on as well as writing a feature for the US based magazine Agile Vox. There I met James Grenning, one of the 17 founding fathers of the Agile Manifesto. It was a proper fan girl moment, and he was equally impressed with my journalistic shorthand skills.

Since 2012, I’ve been looking at how Agile can be used in the PR industry to plan campaigns and activity. It’s a sector that can be surprisingly slow to respond to trends (despite being an industry that capitalises on zeitgeist. Odd, isn’t it?). Yet it does require practitioners to be able to quickly respond to changes in the news agenda or public interest, as well as political factors and market forces outside their organisation.

Whilst it can be baffling, the people I have worked with agree that the manifesto and principles seem follow common sense:

  • Value people and how they interact over processes and tools
  • Crack on with the job and focus on value, don’t waste time on extensive written plans and paperwork
  • Collaborate with your customers instead of squabbling over contracts
  • Be prepared to respond to change rather than following the set plan

One of most practical aspects of Agile that really gets people interested is a Kanban board, known affectionately by everyone’s favourite networker John Harvey as a Bam Bam board. This dashboard is out on display in a shared workspace, and enables teams to progress a project or pipeline of work on a regular basis through stand-up meetings.

This summer, I worked with Pirate FM to introduce Agile to their team. As I introduced the concept of Agile, with its manifesto and principles, to start with some of the team weren’t sure if it would work with them.

But as soon as I unleashed the Post-it notes and my collection of multi-coloured Sharpies, and started to map out the launch of a new product on their boardroom wall, things got exciting. People across departments and at different levels, from the MD to the newest graduate recruit, started to input onto the board.

The team is now embracing and exploring Agile, as well as overcoming unexpected challenges, like how do we get Post-its to stick to glass? (Answer – that frosted sticky back plastic stuff layered on first does the trick).

What’s more, though my training and consultancy, I am collecting Kanban boards from across the UK, showing Agile successes. I recently trained a group of PR practitioners in London, including the PR manager of a well-known high street fashion retailer. I was just as excited as she was when she emailed me a picture of her board, neatly colour coded, with the message: “Are you proud of me?”

If you are intrigued about Agile, I wholeheartedly recommend Belinda Waldock’s book, Being Agile in Business.

If you would like to find out more about introducing Agile in marketing, PR and fundraising teams, give me a shout. My Agile Project Management for PR will be running with the CIPR throughout 2018.

If you want to find out how Post-it notes helped me bag a boyfriend, you might have to buy me a beer.

First published in Business Cornwall October 2017 edition.

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