Francesca Towle

My Year of Complex Client Relationships

Since late October 2014, I have worked for the Roman Baths and since December, the Butterflies Voice choir. I expected a lot more from myself and my clients in these projects, but this academic year has taught me more than how to operate Facebook accounts, or write really good press releases. This is the story of my work with two very different, but equally challenging groups, which shows how I climatised after tragedy, dealt with changing leadership, and realised that I can’t do what I want all the time. In October, I applied for the position of communications manager which had already been advertised by the Beau Street Hoard team; a two year project run by the Roman Baths (along with UNESCO, Bath & North East Somerset Council, and the Heritage Lottery Fund), coming to an end in May 2015. I dedicated the initial few weeks to analysing the social media accounts and websites of the Baths, the Hoard, and similar organisations to see where they could be improved and what I could do when I assumed responsibility. After my first live-tweeting event, I felt confident that I could improve the exposure of the Beau Street Hoard and very positive about my relationship with the people i was going to be working with. Although things got off to such a wonderful start, I never received the social media passwords even after plenty of emails and discussions about it. This left me with press releases, and in their more desperate time, spread sheets. By late November, I was becoming unsure of what my actual role with the Beau Street Hoard was and, after a Twitter disaster at the British Museum, I wasn’t feeling very confident with my own writing abilities. I also started to notice that there was a divide between the team with Verity and Susan (the project manager) on one side, and Katie and Lindsey (my clients) on the other. The way that the Twitter issue was dealt with left me feeling rather uneasy about who I was working for. However, at the same time, I was delivering high quality press releases and even suggested changing the nature of an event; with the addition of a competition, to increase engagement with the audience. The competition idea met with a very positive response, of all the press releases about the finding of the Beau Street Hoard, mine received the most attention and was advertised through numerous news outlets. Unfortunately however, in my absence the event was not advertised via the Twitter or Facebook pages for the Beau Street Hoard, except for the very close to the date, but with no mention of the competition or prize. Or by the people working at the Baths on the day. After a very unsuccessful meeting where I attempted to find myself a place on the team, I decided to find another client to split my time with, as there wasn’t enough work for me to do there. I remembered Butterflies Voice from their talk at university, and that Tilly, who was working for them, was looking for someone to create and operate social media pages for the choir. After creating the pages, I went to the concert they held at Keynsham Waitrose. I took photos and attempted to live-tweet in the place with very little signal and learned a lot of reasons as to why it is difficult to live-tweet a choir! Over the Christmas break, I began planning a new project as the Beau Street Hoard project was no longer meeting my needs. While I was home, I visited  my Granny at the nursing home where she lives which specialises in caring for people with dementia. I was also horrendously unfit and really loved the idea of doing something to improve myself while helping other people like my Gran get treatment and care as wonderful as hers. By the end of the break, and after a an exchange of emails with Mimi, my course leader, I was told I wasn’t allowed to. I now understand it; away from doing whatever you want in university, the adult world has certain rules, and however unsuccessful the relationship between you and the client is, you have to do what you can to make it as beneficial for the both of you as possible. But I still wasn’t very happy about it. After a meeting with Katie and Mimi, I got into a routine with the Beau Street Hoard team; I would go to the office every Friday afternoon to work my four hours there. Butterflies Voice began to receive high amounts of attention at the same time, with help from the popular choir master Charlie, but my lack of knowledge about autism and the lack of discussion between me and the Butterflies Voice management, made it easy for me to put the social media pages on the backburner while I continued to bask in my post-Christmas laziness. In late January, my partner’s father died suddenly in tragic circumstances. Tyson was understandably devastated and I struggled to deal with the situation and be supportive while juggling my un-routined life of university and a zero-hour contract at work. There is a big decline in my work efforts and time management over this period. Both clients were very understanding of the situation. It took two weeks before I got back into my Friday afternoon routine. I also created a well-received leaflet for Butterflies Voice. In this time, my main client (Katie) had left the Roman Baths so I moved away from the Beau Street Hoard and over to Learning and Programs with Lindsey, the coordinator for the Heritage Services. Although this meant that my Friday afternoons were sometimes spent knitting and spinning around on chairs,  I wasn’t working under the project managers anymore who, although were never present, had put a strain on my work efforts. In some free time at work, I developed the idea to create a weekly post called ‘Inspirational Person’ for the Butterflies Voice social media accounts. I knew, after comments from the last series of photographs taken at rehearsals, that some of the choir members had “liked” the Facebook page. I used these inspirational people to build their confidence as many are reaching their teenage years, which is difficult enough without being on the autistic spectrum. These quickly became daily posts as I found more and more inspirational men and women, from as many different areas of the world as possible who worked in music therapy, autistic societies, or were autistic themselves. Not only did this help me learn about the condition, but hopefully show the choir members that their condition doesn’t restrict them from the lives they want to lead. Through emailing the management, that one of the founding members of the choir was quite difficult to communicate with. She seemed to pay little attention to my role within the choir, using the Butterflies-Haven Facebook (but not Twitter) to publish her capitalised messages, even if they were about Butterflies Voice. The email she sent in response to my request for a meeting showed that she didn’t prioritise the promotion of the choir. I didn’t like that she wouldn’t involve herself, as her more personal ways of working in the choir would have made her a great asset for the social media pages. I did, however, make sure that the organiser of the KAN social media accounts (who I had met at the Waitrose concert in December) would be at the meeting, along with William, one of the organisers. The meeting was a huge success, and we discussed ways to access larger audiences. Once I had created the leaflets, although they were well received, I found that various members of the organisation wanted me to add bits in, or take them out, or call the choir “the Butterflies Voice” instead of “Butterflies Voice”- all while my InDesign account had expired. Due to my increase in work hours that meant I couldn’t get to the Mac’s before the rooms closed at university, among other things, I didn’t make the final amendments until a month later. By this point, we’re already in April and my Friday afternoons with Lindsey had seen me make a wider variety of things than I had with Katie previously. Over the Easter holidays, I finalised my research and created a document to help improve the social media accounts for the Roman Baths and their future projects. Partially because Susan was interested, and in other parts because their view of “we don’t have an audience on Facebook” limited their expansion. I created a similar document for whoever is going to take my position as the social media person for Butterflies Voice. As there is a chance that it may be a member of the choir, I wrote the document in a less formal tone and made it using multimedia in an attempt for it to be as exciting as possible. Both documents outlined and promoted my ideas and meant that I had influence on the next steps of my clients and their projects. I then attended my final choir rehearsal which was a huge success where I learned ways to improve my photography and relationship with the choir members. In my time at the Baths and with Butterflies Voice, I learned to adapt my approach to different client types and work independently. I have now realised the complications of processing radical new views to major (and minor) organisations. New plans need to be okayed by a variety of people in different positions, much like parliament, which means that student volunteers like me don’t get as much of an opportunity to express themselves via their work or expand their creative abilities, which is a lot of potential gone to waste, but a lot of “real world” experience learned at the same time. Links: Google Drive WordpPress Butterflies Voice Facebook Butterflies Voice Twitter

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s