Twenty four hours: incidents, challenges and a dose of commitment

It is four years since the first #GMP24 took place. Back in 2010 it was the method of providing details of every call received by Greater Manchester Police that took the spotlight. It was among the first times that Twitter had taken centre stage to be used to provide an insight into an organisation. The content of the tweets ended up taking a backseat with more focus on the humorous ones than the serious issues.

When we approached doing it again four years later we had to take into account everything that has changed in the world. Back in 2010 Twitter was not very well-known, the use of Facebook by GMP was in its infancy and we did little beyond just putting the information out. On Tuesday we revisited the 24 hours of tweets but did much more than this.

As well as tweeting information, we circulated bits of footage with officers and staff working in some of the most challenging areas. They were able to give a little insight into the tough work supporting people suffering domestic abuse, acting as a hostage negotiator and dealing with regular people missing from home. We got officers to take over the corporate Facebook page during the day so they could answer questions and show behind the scenes. There were regular updates from serious crime teams and forensics officers. There were also two community reporters who went out with response officers and spent some time in custody.

All in all this was a much busier #GMP24 than we had back in 2010. There were 2,626 calls that were published and a huge amount of feedback received, which was on the whole positive. People were once again interested to see the range of issues that were managed. They were shocked by the number of domestic incidents and the number of situations where mental health was an issue.

It was a massive undertaking to bring all the elements together, but also to ensure that we were able to show real transparency and tweet every call. This initiative was made even more difficult because of the loss of staff in the past four years. Both from the communication team and also the number of officers that have been lost in the past four years.

Four years ago people asked us would we do #gmp24 again. We always said we would if the time was right and there was a good reason. In 2014 the time was right and hopefully people were able to see that despite the challenges increasing, the growing complexity of crime including hi-tech crime, fraud and dealing with vulnerable people, and the reduction in the number of officers the police are still out every minute of every day trying to deal with problems and make a difference to people in need. 

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Time to think

We live in a very fast paced world where every second is packed full of things to do, places to go and activities to take part in. There are few moments when we can take time out to think about things. I was very lucky this week to have been able to be at the Association of Police Communicators (APComm) 2o14 conference.

Getting three days out of the office is almost impossible and in the current climate has to be something that can be justified. So, I have considered what the conference has given me.

Most important it gave me time to think, reflect on what is the current position, and to look at what could be changed, developed, improved and ultimately achieved. It is incredibly difficult in such a 24 hour work environment to get any time at all and this was a rare opportunity. I took maximum advantage of the time I had.

It also gave me a chance to discuss issues, situations and solutions with colleagues. Sharing experiences is a great way to challenge yourself and question what you are doing, or what you would do when faced with a particular set of circumstances. Modern technology has given us lots of ways to discuss and share but face-to-face conversation is always important.

The content of the conference was varied and interesting which brought new ideas to me. Hearing from experts and professionals working in communication provides the chance to learn, expand my knowledge and hear about developments. It is important for us all to recognise we need to learn every day.

All three aspects have to be in place to gain the maximum benefit from any conference. I was able to realise all three elements in the recent APComm conference thanks to the input from the speakers and the involvement of all the delegates. Three days out of the office is a rare luxury but as I now have a long list of things to do, consider and develop further then it really does feel like time well spent. Time to think.

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I have a plan

I have absolutely no interest in golf. I don’t play and I can’t say I have ever been tempted to pick up a club. However, I was really fascinated by the aftermath of the Ryder Cup win for Europe at the weekend.

The most interesting element was the press conferences from both teams reflecting on their success or failure and what that might be attributed to. Why was should this be of interest to me and other communication professionals? Simple, it was the messages that came through the analysis of the events.

For any communication professionals who are struggling with developing internal communication activity and staff engagement, they will be looking to those successful teams for guidance about what works and why. It is easy to blame poor communication for change processes not being embedded and staff not being aware of what the organisation is seeking to achieve.

Two key issues the players highlighted that came through loud and clear were:

1. Have a clear plan

2. Demonstrate strong leadership

The first thing seems really simple but many companies and businesses have organisational plans that are either too complex or confusing. This lack of clarity will have a significant impact on communication and makes the work of teams extremely difficult. The European Ryder Cup team talked about having a clear plan that each of the members knew, understood and were bought into. On the other side there has been criticism of the American approach from within the team who felt there was no clear plan or how to approach the competition.

Secondly, clear leadership that understood the team and was able to reinforce the plan and the road ahead was highlighted. Any communication professional will understand how vital a strong and accessible CEO is. This isn’t a leader who sets a clear plan and doesn’t listen, it is a leader who is listening, responsive and understands the challenge for those on the frontline.

The role of the communication professional is to influence and negotiate and hopefully get to a point where the CEO feels supported and takes advice, and the plan is turned into something that makes sense. If we take these elements forward then perhaps we can also have winning teams.

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Positive or negative in your outlook?

Every day the headlines are of more sad and depressing stories about the negative things that are happening all around the world. These are definitely challenging and difficult times both at home and abroad. At home many people are struggling to make ends meet and abroad there is a selection of terrible stories from war through to disease, famine etc.

It is very easy to let this impact on our own views of the world and to find it increasingly difficult to hold onto a positive outlook. I know about this only too well as I am definitely a glass half empty sort of person. But I am increasingly recognising that although I may see the challenges and problems in a situation, if I carry that outlook into everything I can easily take the joy out of life.

All that isn’t too much of a problem if I am going to work on my own but if I am working with a team then my moods become increasingly important.

So many managers forget that this is one of the most important elements of leadership. How do you present yourself? What does your language, both spoken and body language, say about you? Are you the kind of person who is going to encourage creativity or do you make people want to leave?

During this year I have become more and more aware of what I put out into the universe. Not just that but the impact that it has on those around me, whether I know them or not. At a time when there is so many terrible things happening I want my legacy to be a much more uplifting and positive thing. Achieving that is not easy and I am still learning taking it a day at a time.

Today is international day of gratitude which gives you an opportunity to take a little bit of time to look at all those things that are positive in your life and say thank you. As part of my ongoing attempts to make a difference I will make sure I am focusing on the good things that I have in my life. Despite what I often think there is a lot to be thankful for.

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A million in 24 hours

A few months ago I was alerted through social media to a request from Manchester Dogs Home for food. They needed urgent help because the cupboards were almost bare. As the home does such great work and is just round the corner from the office we got moving and started to collect donations as well as highlight the plight on social media. It had a great response and led to one of my colleagues adopting one of the dogs.

When the news of the terrible events on Thursday night came through it hit us hard. Like many people our thoughts immediately went to what could we do to help, how could we try to improve the horrific situation?

As individuals we couldn’t make the situation improve on our own, but when we join together we can, we can achieve anything. This was proved when through the efforts of the public more than £1m was raised in just 24 hours. On top of that donations of food, bedding, leads and anything else to help with their work were flooding in.

I have said many times that social media can be a powerful tool for good. We saw it after the riots and disorder in Manchester and across the world, and we have seen it with many other charity and fundraising efforts. So, I am not surprised that social media played a key part in helping to bring people together to do whatever they could as part of a combined effort that will have a huge impact.

In a world where journalist and the media take a lot of criticism, their efforts to highlight what was happening and to share the message about what people could do to help was impressive.  The Manchester Evening News quickly established a central fundraising site and we see today (Saturday 13 September) The Sun highlight the plight of the dogs needing homes on the front page. Amazing stuff.

But what was also amazing were the many individuals who wanted to do a little bit to help. The people who donated a few pounds saying it was all they could afford in such difficult financial times. The elderly lady who came to work with a trolley full of dog food. She got the bus from home after she said her granddaughter had told her about the appeals for help that she had seen on Facebook. And she said if needed she would do the same again next week.

This was such a horrific and tragic set of circumstances but the response restored my faith in humanity. It was also an opportunity for social media to show how it can really be a source of good that can help improve our lives. So when people criticise social media please remember the 24 hours when £1m was raised to make a difference.

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Together and a million miles apart

It is not every Tuesday where you can speak to colleagues from America, Australia, the Netherlands, Canada, Belgium and many other places. But this week I was lucky enough to be able to take part in the international social media in law enforcement conference known as Smile. I expected that there would be lots of differences because we are worlds apart. So what did I find?

Surprisingly, there were many similarities when we discussed our day-to-day work, priorities and dealing with issues. It doesn’t matter whether you are in Manchester, Massachusetts or Melbourne there are many key elements of developing conversations with people you serve that are universal.

Start by recognising that having some form of plan is a good platform to develop the use of social media. The key being knowing what you are doing and why you are doing it. And include in this the need to be able to evaluate what you do so you can show the impact it is having.

Then you can recognise that some key principles are important for everyone. These principles include being honest in what you put out, identifying ways to be interesting and engaging in your conversations, recognising that people have an insatiable appetite for information about policing and law enforcement. All these elements are the same no matter where you are based.

I was privileged to have the chance to speak to a colleague from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police New Brunswick who have dealt with tragedy a few months ago with the death of three officers. The issues they faced were reminiscent of the aftermath of the tragic deaths of Greater Manchester Police officers Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes.  Both cases brought home the risks and danger that police officers face on a daily basis.

In the drive to maximise the opportunities from social media the issues appear to be the same no matter where you are. Some themes included how do you capture important data, how can you share more information, how can you ensure that officers are supported to use social media, and how do you stick to your digital principles when faced with a crisis? The conference this week was a chance to try to share these universal issues and work together to find solutions. We may all occupy very different parts of the globe but we share the planet and the challenges of the digital age.

For those I had a chance to speak to, thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience, and for those I didn’t, I hope we can connect in the virtual world.

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A Twitter reality check

I have to admit to being very excited about the arrival of Twitter analytics for all. A week ago I start to look at the data that was available and wondered how much use it would be to individuals as well as for small businesses. The answer is that if used in the right way it is a great source of information that is available free.

The key for any small business is to know why they are using social media. Usually this will be to increase sales of a product or service and connecting with potential customers is possible using social networks. To do it you need to understand that social media is just that social, and it is the human touch that really matters. No one wants to suffer the hard sell on social networks.

If that is the case then being able to access average engagement rates and look at which tweets attracted retweets or favourites can tell you a lot both about your activity and also the priorities of your followers. It is really easy now to review the data on a weekly or monthly basis to track whether you are making the most of the opportunities as well as developing your use of social media.

It doesn’t need an expensive analytical survey or report to gather the data which means small businesses can focus on finding some support to improve what they are doing, whether that is through training courses or engaging the services of a PR or marketing specialist.

So, how useful is it to the average individual user of social media? I suppose that depends what you want to do and why you engage through social media.

For me it has made me review and reassess why I use Twitter and what I want to achieve or not by using it. One of the important things was to look at the level of engagement highlighted because if that is a really low figure then I am obviously not making the most of things. It would be like sitting in a room and just talking to myself.  I don’t want to get obsessed with reviewing the figures but every so often it will help me to get a reality check about what I am doing and whether it is making a difference.

If you haven’t checked your Twitter analytics out yet then just search Google for “Twitter Analytics” and then set it up to view. Definitely worth checking it out.

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