All posts by Amanda

Help stamp out burnout in a 24/7 world

You know them. They left the office at 10pm, kept working overnight and they’re back in the office at 6am. By then they’ve already scanned what was trending, the media clippings and their emails.

Breakfast was a double shot coffee. But it didn’t really pierce through that dull headache like it used to.

They’re living on adrenalin, and even though they’re desperate to stop working they can’t. They really can’t. Because the phone never stops. Ever.

In the modern communication world there are no deadlines. There’s no off button. Media, communities and stakeholders expect instant answers, 24/7.

Here’s recent proof it’s getting worse:

1. It’s not unusual for some of our stakeholders (themselves no doubt under time pressures) to email staff at 1, 2 or 3 in the morning, wanting answers that day.

2. Print journos have to publish on print, online and blogging platforms so there’s no such thing as getting back to them later in the day. They might have a 12-noon deadline.

3. Every communication opportunity needs words plus at least one visual (video, interactive, animation, photo, map or meme), a hashtag, and tailoring for multiple mediums. And even then people say they didn’t see it.

4. Deadlines are set for 9am, but the source materials don’t arrive until 5.30 the day before. And it’s not that the source materials were running late. That’s the earliest they could be delivered.

So what can we do to stamp out burnout?

Here are some things that our favourite clients and colleagues are doing:

  • Taking leave – have a system to make sure people are taking annual leave
  • Having two points of contact on projects so if you’re sick you can rest because someone is already across the project
  • Forward planning to avoid mad rushes
  • Templating everything you can
  • Setting deadlines with margins, so there’s a time buffer
  • Simplify approvals processes by setting delegations of authority to those with knowledge but more time

What else can the profession do to help stamp out burnout?

Engaging on Transport Infrastructure

“I’ve been yelled at. Threatened. Spat at. Cried at. I’ve felt in danger. I’ve felt frightened. I’ve felt exhausted.” That’s how one colleague has described her life as an engagement manager on a major road construction job.

But it’s her perfect job.

“I get to really make a difference. I get to say, come on, how are we going to get through this together.” By now she’s smiling. “I get to make a real difference.”

When it comes to engagement, there are the projects that lift up spirits or inspire us. And there are the jobs where it’s just hard work.

Road and rail construction is tough. It’s about telling people that their land is being resumed. Or that they’ll have to live with 18 months of noisy, dusty construction and when it’s all done, that the road will still be there. It’s about listening, and being empathetic. It’s about validating the concerns and frustrations of community members.

So what do you do when the project is going ahead and there’s only a handful of things we can ask the community to provide input on?

Here are the things that matter most when there are few negotiables.

  • Empathy – No, you can’t shift the road. But you can shift the way people feel. You can listen to them, understand, and let them know it’s hard.
  • Documentation – It’s critical to document needs, and your own commitments. Nothing could be worse for a stakeholder than having their comments lost.
  • Supporting verbal conversations with written materials – When you’re telling someone that you’re going to resume their property or take away their privacy or outlook, it’s a shock. It’s a swirl of white noise. It’s feeling lost and frightened and confused. Unless there’s a take home, then it’s impossible to remember. It’s the critical time to get the facts right and to offer support.
  • The little things can make the biggest difference – Ok, so you still can’t move the road, but you can help community members to find help, to relocate, to understand how to ask for construction workers to be mindful of their children and neighbourhood.


UQ Sport Engage

Almost 1,500 people took part in UQ Sport Engage, initiated to better understand the role of UQ Sport in the community, the needs of stakeholders, and to help guide future strategic planning.

UQ Sport Engage set a benchmark for future engagement to drive organisational change, monitor performance and meet community needs and expectations.

The engagement strategy was built on three key themes including:

  • Awareness – knowledge of UQ Sport’s facilities and services; drive to participate and motivation to interact.
  • Relationship – quality and state of relationships; trust in UQ Sport; shared values and beliefs.
  • Participation and Expectation– use of facilities and services; satisfaction levels; future use, current and future communication; improving the quality of facilities and services.

Digital engagement was key in attracting the interest of a young university cohort. The interactive play dough survey attracted a strong crowd, asking participants to get hands on and select responses to a survey by touching play dough shapes.

The digital survey had over 1000 responses with 100% completion rate, a resounding success.

The engagement was meaningful, easy-to-access, open, forward-focused, responsive, diverse and fun.

Community Engagement Toolkit for Planning

In 2017, the Minister’s Guidelines and Rules under the new Planning Act 2016 came into effect.  These changes prescribe a higher level of engagement and for earlier engagement to be done by local governments.

They also require that the communications plan (comprising communications and engagement) must be “prepared having regard to the department’s Community Engagement Toolkit for Planning”.

Articulous Communications and Leisa Prowse Consulting worked on the development of the Community Engagement Toolkit for Planning with DILGP.

Some key points to consider if you’re a state department, state agency, local council or a developer:

  • The new Queensland Planning Act provides community and key stakeholders the opportunity to actively contribute to the planning process in a manner that is effective, inclusive and respectful of local values.
  • The Community Engagement Toolkit builds upon the good work done by local government and provides a central location for information about current trends in engagement techniques, the benefit of tools when engaging with the community about planning and development assessment, as well as relevant case studies.
  • Cities that have embraced opportunities for the community and key stakeholders to actively contribute to the planning process have succeeded in building places that are celebrated for their enhanced livability, prosperity and inclusiveness.
  • Councils that already use best practice engagement strategies have seen the important role they play in building rapport with their community as well as improving investment and community confidence.
  • It provides a framework that supports efficient, consistent and confident decision-making.

Over time, the kit will be recognised as the main repository for leading practice community engagement in Queensland for the planning system

As Australia’s preeminent community engagement consultancy, Articulous Communications, led by founder and managing director Amanda Newbery, has developed a number of frameworks and policies in engagement at local, state and national levels.

This includes:

  • co-developing key pieces of the intellectual property now embedded in the international quality assurance standards for engagement and the Australian certificate course
  • developing the national online engagement program that has been used by councils and governments for the past three years
  • co-developing the Victorian government’s framework for engaging in the waste sector for MWRRG

Articulous Communications is on the preferred supplier lists for state and local government agencies in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and New Zealand.

Visit Leisa Prowse Consulting

Five things every community engagement person should stop doing

Every day and in every industry we are continually adding ideas or processes. But so often we forget to delete.

When we review or audit community and stakeholder engagement within organisations, we see how passionate our engagement colleagues are. Their passion for engagement means we’re adding innovations and improvements every day.

But what should we be deleting from our engagement practice?

  1. Outdated processes – legislation is being updated every year in different sectors and states. If your engagement policy or framework was completed more than 5 years ago, it may need updating. Since then, we’ve seen new legislation, policies and standards introduced at the national level, as well as the state level in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia.
  2. Newspaper notices – unless it’s required by legacy legislation, a newspaper notice is simply not enough to attract community attention. Very few people read newspapers and even fewer read the notices section.
  3. Burn out of great professionals – at the IAP2’s last engagement conference, I was moved to tears by tales of great engagement professionals who felt burnt out and traumatised by having to work with daily angry, aggressive or bullying behaviours. We need to make sure our colleagues are supported and encouraged on those tough projects.
  4. Jargon – yes, even engagement people can over-use jargon. So if you find you’re spending too much time talking about scope, deliberative, collaborative partnerships, levels of engagement, the DPM, honeycomb profiles and more … then stop and translate to your project teams.
  5. Engaging solely on problems – if you’re only engaging when things are contentious or there’s a risk, then you need to stop. We could spend an entire blog talking about this, but in essence it causes (a) a failure to engage on topics that the whole community wants to engage on (b) an engagement capacity gap – where we unintentionally build the skills of those who always turn up, and diminish the engagement skills of those who don’t (c) we don’t ask the right questions of community (d) our innovation is focused on problems rather than opportunity (e) it can create a false sense of what community really thinks

If you’d like to keep up with the latest in engagement strategies, why not enrol in the Strategies for Complex Engagement course.

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