A question of ethics

I have had quite a bit of time to think in the past few days. Partly this is because I have spent a number of hours on train journeys and partly because I have been on holiday and a little distanced from the day-to-day demands of the office. On my mind has been the thorny issue of reputation.

Reputation is a word that is synonymous with the PR industry and for me that is often not a positive relationship. We are seen to be the people who protect, safeguard and where possible enhance reputation of brands and organisations. This can sometimes be seen to be at the expense of truth, honesty and with a lack of integrity.

All this has led to a mistrust and cynicism about the PR business and what it does. The reputation of the very profession that I have proud to be part of is often called into question and that makes me very uncomfortable. After all as a Fellow of both the PRCA and the CIPR I have a daily focus on professionalism, integrity, ethics and the codes that exist. To add to my considerations in this area I am also subject to the College of Policing Code of Ethics. So it is safe to say that ethics, ethical considerations and professional standards are at the very forefront of my thoughts.

The concern I have is that I am not sure how many other people working in PR and communication have the same approach. How many people will question what they are doing when they sit down in the office and turn the computer on? How many will discuss the ethical considerations of a course of action that a client may be proposing? How many will provide honest feedback to those in senior positions?

Don’t get me wrong I am not saying that I have everything sewn up. But I do feel able to appropriately question when I am uncomfortable or concerned about something I am being asked to do. It may be something that comes with age and experience but it is also something that is a key to my belief system and my own ethical standards. After all why would I want to work somewhere that puts my professional ethics under pressure.

I have been very supportive of the work of both the CIPR and the PRCA in this area but we can and should do more. Communication is the one function other than management that sees across the organisation and decision making in some detail. It gives us the perfect position to be the conscience of the business and to ask challenging questions.

If we can take this position then we can start to go someway to changing the view of PR and communication and moving beyond reputation management.

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In honour of my Mum

It will not have escaped your attention that today is Mother’s Day. Hopefully we have all spares some time or thought about Mother’s everywhere.

Even when they are no longer with us we carry our mums round in our hearts, thoughts and our DNA. I am very lucky to be able to go and spend some time with my Mum this afternoon. This blog is going to be a bit self indulgent but I think after 47 years of dealing with me and 50 years as a Mum I should pay tribute to my Mum.

From a young age my mum has encouraged me to be myself and have independent thought even if it isn’t always the easy path. In my early years I didn’t realise this because it was normal life but it was so much more. In 2018 we still have heated discussions about life, politics and more.

My mum always told me I could achieve whatever I set my mind to. Even when sometimes I needed a little nudge to put enough effort in. It stays with me even today and if I want something I don’t question whether I will get there.

At the ripe old age of 47 I know my Mum will be there with a kind word and a hug whenever I am down or struggling. But she will also give me a verbal kick up the bum when I am wallowing in misery. In the past 12 months there are many, many occasions when my Mum has been there before I even knew I needed help.

My Mum is one of the most creative people I know. She has always been creating art as long as I can remember and often pushing the boundaries. It isn’t everybody that while at primary school has a Mum that is making ceramic body parts!

And my Mum is fun. We often have a laugh. I have a whole host of photographs over the years of those fun times and they still raise a smile.

I could say so much more about my Mum but will leave it with just saying Prudence Coleman thank you for all these things and more.

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47 notes on life

I seem to be hurtling towards my 50th birthday and am still surprised by the fact that in my head I am still mid-20s but that isn’t what I see in the mirror. Today I reached the grand old age of 47.

The journey from 46 to 47 has been a rollercoaster and I have learnt a lot in the past 12 months. I decided to write down 47 important messages that I know I need to remember. I hope you might agree with a few of them and maybe some of them will resonate with you.

1. Take time to be with your family as they are where you came from

2. Be kind to yourself as you are doing your best

3. Do what you love and you will always do your best

4. Treasure each day as it is a gift

5. Never leave with a cross word

6. Find ways to help others around you and you will get so much back

7. Things are not important but people and animals are

8. Share your love

9. Take time to just be with yourself

10. Be courageous and stand up for what you believe in

11. Remember that you are worthy

12. Take time to have fun

13. Remember to let your hair down once in a while

14. Say thank you many times each day

15. Leave a positive impression wherever you go

16. Make time to meditate

17. Working out your mind is as important if not more as working outs generally

18. Say I love you to the people that matter when you have the time to do that

19. Surround yourself with positivity including people

20. Only sweat the small stuff if it really matters to people

21. Stop and admire the scenery along the way

22. Be open to new experiences

23. Money doesn’t make you happy as happiness comes from within

24. If you want to do something don’t let anyone stand in your way

25. The setbacks and challenges have a purpose and are helping you grow

26. Be yourself and not what you think people want you to be

27. Keep a balance between work life and home life

28. Live for today as we don’t know what tomorrow will bring

29. Be the best you can be

30. Step out of the comfort zone regularly

31. A good nights sleep is important to your resilience and strength

32. Be respectful to other people’s beliefs

33. Meditate to clear your mind of the stress of modern life

34. Care for others

35. Do the right thing and act ethically

36. Challenge when you feel it is necessary and appropriate

37. Know your boundaries and be confident in stating them

38. Use all your senses to experience life

39. Hugs are good so don’t avoid them

40. Show you care

41. Never stop learning and developing

42. Be true to what you believe in

43. Remember people are the most important thing at work, home and during down time

44. Have a strong support network

45. Let the barriers down once in a while

46. Take help when it is offered you are not alone

47. Finally it is ok to not be ok – you can’t always be invincible

A huge thank you to everyone for their love and messages of support today which have made it a fantastic day. Now I will go boldly into the coming year.

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The real story

Many people will have read the story about the former Sainsbury’s employee Mrs Salomon who was able to continue to work despite living with Alzheimer’s.

She managed to do it only with the support of her employers who made reasonable adjustments to keep her at work for as long as possible. It is a real heart warming story and one that demonstrates what can and should be done for people dealing with all kinds of illnesses.

But there was also something else that stood out in this story and that was how it came to light. It was only spotted when her son Doron tweeted about what the supermarket had done and thanked them for all the support they had given.

The important element here is that this was done to help Mrs Salomon. It wasn’t about a process or about getting some positive publicity rather it was about doing the right thing for their employee. It is those genuine cases where people speak up about the good service or experience that they have had which is worth more than many, many PR stories.

It is the honesty that shines through from these cases. Genuinely good service or work that is focused on people and not achieving a goal, meeting a target or following a policy. We had a similar experience at work a couple of weeks ago with the officer who dived in a river to rescue a man. It was a human response to the situation being faced and wasn’t about getting publicity.

Sometimes as communicators we try to hard to create news when really it is happening all day every day at the frontline of the business.

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With a little help

The weather conditions have been the only real story in town this week. We saw people stuck in vehicles on motorways, people snowed into their homes and people struggling to get to their vital work. One thing stuck out throughout this extreme weather week and that was how people stepped forward to help others.

There were countless tales of people going out of their way to help those in need and doing it for no other reason than they wanted to help. From providing food to giving someone a bed for the night through to driving nurses into work people stepped in.

It can restore faith in human nature and that show how we can help each other. The big question I am left with is why don’t we do this throughout the year? Why don’t we have this approach when we are not in the middle of a crisis?

In our busy lives it is easy to rush around focused on what we are doing and what we want to achieve. There is little or no time for us to share with others and to do selfless acts.

But for those who are in a positive position and they may be driving a 4×4 or have the spare bed to give it is a rewarding experience to think about others. During Lent I have committed to doing random acts of kindness and do things to help others.

I have to admit that it hasn’t been easy trying to think about others at some point each day and to find things to do that will benefit them. One thing is clear is that doing this Lent challenge will make me more aware of others and remind me that we all need to work together to improve life.

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Snow joke

For the majority of the week there has been only one topic of conversation – the weather or as the newspapers would term it extreme weather or snowmaggedon. It has dominated the media with reporters being stuck in windswept and snow covered fields talking about the conditions.

There have been numerous warnings that people in many parts of the country should stay at home. Travel is discouraged and there have been stories of people being stuck for hours stranded in their cars.

For some the options of working from home or taking the day off don’t exist. Emergency services workers, local authority staff, NHS workers, those caring for others and even those looking after animals all have to be at work.

It is worth sparing a thought to those that face those demands. I have watched a news report of nurses sleeping at hospital so they can continue to give care. And as I write this one of my colleagues is back in work and will stay as long as is necessary.

Being a police communicator has its good points but one of them is definitely not being called in to work overnight. Why do we do it? Ultimately it means we can help people in need and support the emergency services frontline that is out no matter what the weather does.

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A Final Word

There has been so much discussion this week about the KFC no chicken issue and the response that happened. Everyone has to agree that a chicken restaurant without chicken is a reputational and operational crisis. Shops closed, staff had no work and people couldn’t buy takeaway fried chicken.

Many will have seen the advert that was in the national newspapers which attempted to use some humour to lighten the situation.

So was it a crisis communication master stroke or was it just what you would expect from a business in crisis?

My non-negotiables with regard to crisis communication are:

1. Show you have recognised and are dealing with the situation

2. Be honest and accurate in what you say

3. Keep a flow of information

4. Remember the people

5. Get the right tone

In providing the swift response and giving regular updates the team behind KFC did cover points 1 and 3. They seemed to be focused on providing detailed updates about where was open, who was affected and what was being done, which meets point 2.

In point 4 they quickly talked about what was going to happen to those who could not work because of the problem. They also recognised that many loyal customers would be upset and frustrated at the closures.

Finally, the humour in the newspaper advert does appear to meet point 5. They are able to use a bit of humour as after all this is about fried chicken and no one has their lives at risk. In many cases this approach would not be acceptable because of the severity of the situation. This is why it is essential to understand the mood and get the tone right in response to an incident.

In short KFC met all the essential elements and it has shown an ability to step up quickly to deal with a crisis. The important question for all communicators following this is are you ready to step up and manage a crisis?

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