Your invitation to join Comms Unplugged

Imagine a weekend with no devices, surrounded by professional communicators in tents. Sound good? You’re in for a treat…

Today I have a guest post by Sally Northeast, @salzasal, Deputy Director of OD, Participation and Communications at Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust here in the UK.

She is co-creator of Comms Unplugged in her spare time (which she says is getting eroded by the minute!).

I heard about the event, which is happening in September 2017 for public sector practitioners, and invited Sally to write for the All Things IC blog. She’s revealed what we need to know about Comms Unplugged, the thinking behind it and how you can get involved.

Here’s Sally…

Ideas that won’t be told – how teamwork brought a crazy concept to life

It’s great when inspiration hits you between the eyes and you have an exciting idea. In a creative industry like communications, ideas are bouncing around all the time. Yet I wonder how many of them just end up lost in the ether, or never make it past the bright spark stage and into ‘production’.

So it could have been for Comms Unplugged. The idea first surfaced a few years ago. It was a vague, undeveloped, frankly slightly mad thought inspired by CommsCamp.

A thought about taking the already great idea of a co-produced, buzzy, professional communicators’ event to another level. The thought involved an actual camp. With actual tents. In a field.

Life took over for a couple of years but somehow the thought refused to crawl back into its cave. It popped its head out again after its hibernation and said: ‘Hey – remember me?’

It was the same small band of people who wanted to see it happen and somehow this year we’ve got ourselves mobilised.

I’m not sure quite how or why it got a grip on us but before we knew it Comms Unplugged had a venue, a brand, a website and an expanding team who were throwing around all sorts of brilliant, inspirational ideas and suggestions to make this a unique event for our profession.

I can’t say the organisation is slick – we’re not a well-oiled machine and all of us who are involved are doing this off the side of our desks, in our spare time. Only a couple of us are actually in the same county – everything’s being done by email, shared Google drives and occasionally on the phone. We’re literally making it up as we go along.

But somehow it works. We’re a great team with huge amounts of experience, a wide range of skills and enthusiasm in spades.

The team

The Comms Unplugged Team includes Georgia Turner (Bournemouth Borough Council), Darren Caveney (comms2point0), Victoria Ford (Perago Wales), Chris Elias (Intellectual Property Office) and Sara Hamilton (New Forest District Council).

Everyone has bought into the idea of a fresh approach to a professional event, with wellbeing as a central focus as well as learning, networking, sharing and taking time away from the normal day.

We all love the fact that there’ll be no signal, no wifi and no tech – though I think we’re all secretly freaked out by that too!

We make decisions on the hoof – sometimes emails are flying between us at an alarming rate. We solve problems, take responsibility, collaborate, consult, offer advice, get things done and support each other. Weirdly it often feels like we’re actually sat in the same room discussing it together.

For me the main reason it works is that we all believe in the idea – the one that seemed so crackers at the beginning that it took years for us to even take ourselves seriously. We’re all inspired, fired up, enthused and enjoying being part of something special. It’s the most fun I’ve had on a work-related project in ages.

Turning a great idea into a real thing can be a challenge. It takes guts, energy, drive and determination. But with the right group of people to share the load it’s absolutely doable. 

Making a difference

Most of us got into public sector comms roles to be creative, to make things happen and to make a difference. Now we’re hoping we make a difference for people who join us in that lovely, isolated, tech-free field in Dorset.

We want people to come away from it inspired, recharged and feeling like they were part of something special. If you fancy a piece of that follow us @commsunplugged on Twitter.

Comms Unplugged is a unique event providing a comms person’s retreat and opportunity to connect and develop in a completely different setting – a field in Dorset, UK. Save the date: 15/16 September 2017. Register for news at

Post author: Sally Northeast.

Thank you Sally. I love this idea! If you’ve not signed up to go, do keep an eye on the Comms Unplugged website for full information.

Well done to the whole team, I look forward to hearing all about it. Do please come back and guest blog post-event.


First published on the All Things IC blog 21 July 2017.

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