12 June 2017
It's a small world
Building trust is the key to creating strong, lasting relationships
I spent three and half years as support worker before joining Bromford’s communication team in 2013.
During my time as a support worker I worked with a whole host of people including young people leaving care, people with poor mental health, ex-offenders, people dealing with alcohol and drug issues, homeless families and people living with a disability.
It’s funny how quickly you forget what it’s like when you’re not ‘doing’ on a daily basis.
Part of my job in comms is to help promote our services and I recently visited our new MyPlace schemes with a photographer to capture some images to use on promotional material, our website and social media channels.
Samuel Place in Redditch is our second MyPlace development to be completed and is home to people living with a disability.
As a comms ‘professional’ I walked into the scheme thinking about how best we can tell the story of how fabulous this new type of accommodation is. I’ve already written a few pieces that tell of the advantages to customers, local authorities and the surrounding community but this was my first visit to the scheme.
As soon I stepped into the busy community lounge I was taken back to a time where the angle of the story didn’t really matter. I was introduced to Christine and Chris who were sitting at the dining table playing dominos with Louise, one of the carers who works for Dimensions. Their smiles were infectious and the next two hours absolutely flew by as the photographer snapped away.
Christine was really eager to show us around her flat. Pointing out photos of her family and the cross-stich artwork that her mum had created, she sat in her armchair watching the birds peck at the seeds and fat-balls she had lovingly put out for them that morning.
“I love the birds,” she smiled.
“So do I,” I replied.
I’d done exactly the same as Christine that morning. I’d made sure the birds that visit my garden had their daily feed waiting for them. We sat in silence for a minute and it struck me that I’d forgotten what it was like to spend time with people - to get to know them and take the time to listen properly to them. That might sound a bit strange because in my job as a writer and storyteller I’m constantly talking to colleagues and getting their opinions and views on the business. But I realised in that moment that in our pursuit of the ‘angle’ we’re sometimes missing something really important – the people.
Christine told us of her love of shopping for clothes, shoes and handbags. Her pride shone through as she showed us around her homely flat. Her bedroom had flashes of pink and her wet room was stacked full of colourful towels. “I’m really happy here.” she smiled as we walked back to the community lounge where Chris was waiting.
Back in the lounge Christine treated us to a rendition of her favourite song, ‘You don’t have to say you love me’ by Dusty Springfield and told us how her and Chris would be performing the song on stage in a couple of weeks.
We then went outside into the sunny community gardens for some more photos where we were joined by Anoushka. The conversation turned to holidays and picnics – with Anoushka telling us how she’s really looking forward to an upcoming trip to Italy with her family. Christine was excited about spending time on the beach when she goes on a coach trip to the Isle of Wight in the summer.
It was a really warm afternoon so I sat in the shade with Christine and chatted about the delights of summer picnics; I found out that ham and cheese sandwiches, bananas, cola and crisps would be top of Christine’s wish list.
The conversations I had with Christine were not ground-breaking. She didn’t come out with any soundbites that I could quote to help promote the scheme. You might even be wondering what the point of me sharing this is. It might not seem that important in the current climate of budget and funding cuts but I think it’s crucial that as comms ‘professionals’ we don’t lose sight of what it’s all about.
As a support worker I used to love getting to know the people I worked with. Their stories were their lives. Their stories were their experiences. Their loves and hates. Their hopes and dreams. The stories weren’t ‘angles’ to use to help me promote something, and my trip to Samuel Place has reminded me of that.