Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Does your communications office need a hackathon?

Hackathons are legendary in the tech world. Starting out as all-night code marathons, they've evolved into multi-day events or gotten more focused as department-wide, rather than company-wide, efforts. And I think communications and public affairs offices should strongly consider their own versions of a hackathon on a regular basis.

You'll find background on how the hackathon has evolved at Facebook in this article, but the main idea is expressed in this quote from the article: "The best hackathon projects come about when someone in the company identifies a problem, and recruits others to work on it with them."

For a busy comms shop, it seems to me the best hackathon ideas will let your team tackle problems that have been like sand in your shoe all year, the ones no one seems to have time to address. You can come up with pilot projects to test out ideas short-term and measure their effectiveness, even use the hackathon as a pivot point, a marker where you change your policies or practices in large or small. And no, it doesn't need to be an all-nighter. But a couple of days devoted to considering new options and problem-solving projects could advance your communications in a way nothing else can.

Planning a communications hackathon also means your team can create a wish list throughout the year and earmark problems to be addressed then. Remember, the best hackathon projects stem from passion, so let your team show what it's passionate about in the projects that get chosen. This is more hands-on than a staff retreat, but it's a great team-building opportunity--and I'd add a session for each person or team to share their hacked project with the full team, for bragging rights, and to seed even more ideas.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Andrew Eland)

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