students’ unions

Whose Students’ Union?

Oh hi, I’m back! I spend a lot of time mentally composing blog posts but forget that it is harder to share them when they’re just in my head…

So something I’ve been thinking about recently is whose students’ union it is.

NUS have been doing some really interesting work on talking to students like they’re selfish (as in don’t do that), part of which talks about using our/you/we and who is included/excluded from those.

The one I’m particularly interested in at the moment is the use of ‘your students’ union’ because I don’t think I like it.

I’ve used it loads in the past – hey it looks inclusive, hey we want you to know you’re part of this too, hey if we say it enough times maybe people will start to believe it. Our email newsletter used to come from ‘Your Students’ Union’, we refer to ‘Your Officers’ and it crops up all over the place. I thought it was familiar and would indoctrinate people into thinking they truly were ‘Their Officers’.

Now I’m not so sure.

Like, if someone tells me they’re my something and I don’t feel like they really are then I instantly feel annoyed by their presumptiveness. Who are you to tell me that you’re my anything?!

What if we’re alienating people at the very times we’re trying to make them feel included?

If I like you and we have some sort of prior connection then maybe but even then isn’t it a bit weird?

Isn’t it a bit like someone you meet on a train telling you they’re your stranger on a train? No mate, you’re just a stranger talking to me on a train. Don’t do that. I’m terribly British about that.

You may well be my city council but if you’re not taking away the recycling often enough then you signing your letters ‘Your Council’ doesn’t make me like you any more. If I couldn’t pick your officer out of a line-up and/or I don’t know what they’ve done for me then they’re not really My Officer. Telling me they are all the time doesn’t make it true.

I’ve started thinking that you only get to call yourself someone’s something if you’ve earned that and if they believe it too. I don’t think it is causal. I don’t think you can ‘I’m yours’ your way into someone’s life or heart.

It’s like when people say ‘don’t tell me you’re funny, make me laugh’. If we’re so busy being presumptive about our relationship with people by telling them something maybe we’re not spending enough time actually doing stuff that will make them feel like they belong.

Or maybe I’m wrong.

What do you think?

March 20th, 2016|Communications|1 Comment|

The value of good writing

I was recently asked to write a column for Spotlight, a magazine produced by the National Union of Students which is distributed to students’ union staff and officers. I chose to write about the value of good writing.

The theme of the issue is ‘Crafting your message’ and it is cool to see communications as a focus for an issue. It’s also cool that this issue is being put together by Demon Media, the student media team at De Montfort Students’ Union.

I chose ‘good writing’ as my topic as it is something important that I think is often overlooked in our rush to publish and share. Ironically it nearly went to print with a typo but let’s pretend that was intentional.

The power of words

The power of words fascinates me. The Government Digital Service found, for example, that changing the wording on one button increased clickthroughs by 600%. Seriously, their choice of word made a concrete, tangible difference. A word! In our cash and time-strapped worlds, knowing things like that can make such a difference and make our content work harder.

The data nerd in me loves things like that. It’s why I love doing things like split-testing email sign-up forms for our freshers newsletter. It demonstrates what a difference words can make.

Content design

I’ve found the approach of the Government Digital Service (yes, I talk about them a lot. I love them and my Feedly collection is quite GDS heavy) insightful. They refer to ‘content design’ which highlights the importance of layout and thinking about how best to present and communicate information rather than just slapping it onto a page. Sarah Richards, GDS Head of Content Design, talks on her blog about the need for editors to design.


May 22nd, 2014|Content|0 Comments|