Communication skills for a new world: Alex Miller takes stock
In recent months, working from his South London home has been a life-learning experience and opportunity for reflection for former WRENmedia employee, Alex Miller. Like many others who are no longer working in the office, he has been following COVID developments and evaluating his abilities in communications to see how these fit with the new world of work.
Due to the outbreak of Covid-19, many of us have been reassessing how we work. The shift to working from home and meeting with colleagues solely online has meant that our daily working processes have changed drastically. As a result, I think it’s normal to evaluate one’s professional skills to see how they fit with the changing demands of today – especially as the economic outlook becomes bleaker!
So, what have I learnt from taking stock of my abilities? Well firstly, I now realise that I’ve picked up useful skills at each step of my career in the communications industry. This, of course, includes my year working at WRENmedia until January 2019.
Following WRENmedia’s recent blogs, which have expertly covered the impact of the pandemic on food systems and agribusiness around the world, has reminded me of how, when working with the company, I was able to hone my skills and experience writing about issues that matter to me. And whilst this did not include writing about the effects of a global health crisis(!), I fondly remember writing about smallholder farmers and how they and agri-entrepreneurs could be better supported in their work. My writing and editing work also involved reviewing technical project reports that highlighted how various agricultural development initiatives were benefiting local communities across Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. I was deeply interested by how such developments could contribute to the creation of a better society.
Thus, this work helped me to realise that one of my passions is about building a society that works better for the most disadvantaged and marginalised. I now work as a Communications Executive at a London-based think tank that primarily works on policy recommendations for the UK social sector, which includes charities, voluntary groups and civil society organisations. Our research examines the role of these groups in society and how these organisations can be better supported and utilised by the government to intervene where and when societal problems arise. I have been able to write on such a topic with confidence, ensuring accuracy and relevance, by drawing on the technical writing skills I developed with WRENmedia.
Working in a virtual world
Social media work also made up a significant proportion of my role at WRENmedia, and I thoroughly enjoyed developing my skills in this area in order to reach monthly client targets. To achieve this, I would create new and inventive ways to share messages over Twitter, experimenting with different ways of structuring my tweets or creating image cards and attaching them to the posts. This work was mostly to improve online engagement with articles written for Spore magazine on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Although my role now differs in terms of the content I publish, I still greatly enjoy working to improve the reach of my social media work, as well as commissioning, editing and writing reports and blogs. Building such skills in digital communications has also been a real asset as Covid-19 has required the increased uptake of new and innovative online communications technologies. For my new company, I have been excited to be a part of the publication of an interactive data dashboard, which allows philanthropists and charities to compare data on the rise of Covid-19 cases in specific areas, and the kind of support those in the area may benefit from receiving. I am also involved in the production of podcasts with guest speakers, including leaders of UK charities. I was well prepared for this type of work due to my experience of interviewing business leaders and policymakers in the agricultural development field during my time at WRENmedia.
Looking ahead with lessons learned
As we look ahead to more uncertainty in the months to come, I am grateful for the lessons I learned and the opportunities I was given at WRENmedia – all of which enabled me to further build and develop my professional skillset. In my current role, I still greatly enjoy learning new communications skills, such as the ability to better edit podcasts and videos. I now use these media to share messages online on issues that are important to me, and which are now even more critical given the huge changes in global circumstances.