In 2012 I was in a conference session where we were challenged to find a ‘tribe’ (from Seth Godin’s book ‘Tribes’). Two years later and I invited the students’ union communications tribe down to Brighton for the third Comms by the Coast and we had a great day.

In 2012 I rustled up an informal conference in six weeks to which around 20 people came, ate pastries and shared ideas. The following year we were up to about 40 people and this year we hit 70. The pastries, interesting speakers and marvellous people have been a consistent theme and I’m so proud of our little tribe.

Comms by the Coast presentations

The day started with a session called ‘Think connections not dots‘ by former colleague Tom Harle, now a freelance experience planner. Tom talked about how important it is to consider someone’s overall experience with you, not just online and not via individual channels.

I’ve been thinking a lot about user focused projects/ways of working so this was a really useful start to the day.

Up next were Pip from Anglia Ruskin Students’ Union & Mike from Staffordshire Students’ Union. I’d asked them to talk about the campaigns they’ve been running in their unions to encourage pride in their universities/unions.

It was great to see how students, staff and their parent institutions had got behind the campaign and I think this is something lots of attendees will be thinking of introducing in their unions. On a personal note I also enjoyed the fact that Pip & Mike’s cats made appearances in their presentation. Cats = winning.

After showing me up in our joint Students’ Unions 2014 session about content marketing by having much better jokes than me, Steve dazzled everyone with his pretentiously-titled but tremendously inspiring session ‘Postcards from the edge of change‘.

Whilst Steve talked about a lot of cool stuff Essex Students’ Union have been doing, the bit that stood out for me was that they wanted to break away from the crowd of students’ unions that drift along, following the same general trends and doing things in similar ways. That is one of the reasons I have non-students’ union people speaking at Comms by the Coast as it is easy to be very inward-looking and only look at what other students’ unions are doing.

Before we broke for lunch, Shakira talked about elections and engagement and kick-started discussions that ran into lunch.

Lunch was marvellously sunny and people had a chance to wander round campus or sit on the grass and chat to other attendees.

Sarah got everyone’s brains back into gear after lunch with her session on communications strategy and the power of ‘why?’ which included a great TEDx talk by Simon Sinek.

We then heard from Lucy who talked about Girlguiding’s digital strategy work which they’re sharing at It has been really interesting to follow what they’re doing (and borrow their ideas!).

Kelvin then talked us through 15 content marketing tools. I love cool tools and websites so there are definitely some there I’ll be adding to my collection.

The day was rounded off by Kit’s crisis communications talk in which we looked back at some examples of crisis communications he’d been involved in that we could learn from. If you’d like a copy of Kit’s presentation please email me –

We need your feedback

If you’re a students’ union comms person I’d love to hear your feedback whether or not you actually made it along on the day.

A big soppy thank you

I’d like to thank everyone who spoke on the day plus everyone who dragged themselves away from hectic offices and came along to contribute to the conversation. I’d love to keep the conversation going on Twitter using the #sucomms hashtag