Bee strong

I can remember receiving the call from duty press officer around 10.45pm on 22 May. The words he spoke will never leave me. I remember the drive to work planning what we needed to do in my head. I remember the frustration at hitting nighttime roadworks on the way there.

I remember the first press conference around three o’clock in the morning. I remember trying to sleep in the middle of the day but knowing what was ahead and getting about two hours before starting another night shift.

Most of all I remember the names and faces of the people who lost their lives. I remember putting the tributes out from the families.

Tomorrow will be a difficult day for so many people and everyone will need to deal with it in their own way.

For me, I will be keeping myself away from social media and will be focused on the work I need to do, supporting the team and taking some time to reflect and remember.

During the last 12 months I have come to appreciate more than ever the help and support I have both from family and friends. I appreciate so much more now than I did then. I have also realised you have to take situations and find ways to help others.

I have been trying to share with all communicators the important message that people have to be at the heart of all crisis communication. It is also vital that we recognise the impact that dealing with difficult situations can have on communicators and make it ok to say you need help.

There is a lot to learn and share for the future and this work will continue.

Tomorrow I will be reflecting and remembering and when I can I will be telling those close to me how much I love them. Please take the time now when you can to do the same. Hug them and keep them close.

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Take good care

In the past 12 months I have probably thought, written and talked more about mental health in PR and communication roles than at any time before.

Last year mental health awareness was important but as a distant concept. In 2018 it is very, very real.

We are all aware of the impact of the increasing demands, pressures and responsibilities that communicators feel. But we are still slow to act and change the prevailing culture that exists in the industry and society which is to hide any problems and appear to be in control.

I have learnt a lot in a year including, as I have written before, that it is ok to say you need help and showing emotion is not a sign of weakness.

Some days I forget myself about those lessons and I try to continue by suppressing any feelings and packaging them up for a later date.

In a few days myself and the team who worked on 22 May 2017 will be thinking of those who lost their lives, their families and loved ones, and all those who were affected. We have a job to do again and we will do it. We will be there again to support each other and to give each other the space to have a moment to shed some tears.

It is important that we all take part in mental health awareness week and in the conversations being started by both the PRCA and the CIPR.

After all as we have said many times in the office it is ok to not be ok.

Please take the time to look after yourself and your friends and colleagues.

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In search of media training

In this busy and fast moving world what you say first when you are put in front of the camera will last. The chances of a camera being put in front of your face are high as we all have the means to do it in the palm of our hands.

Yet it seems that the good old-fashioned media training has, for many, dropped off the priority list. Perhaps we think that people know what to do?

A prime example of when media training and strong PR support could have made a difference was Oliver Townend at this weekend’s Badminton three day event. For the non-horsey this is one of the highlights of the eventing calendar and attracts significant numbers of viewers as it is shown on the BBC.

This year the top rider Oliver Townend was given an official warning after he was judged to have over-used the whip on his horses. When approached at the conclusion of the competition he was unrepentant and proceeded to talk about it as a job and he would do what he had to do to win. The words sparked further anger and discussion about his sportsmanship and horsemanship.

Today he published an apology and back tracked on the comments he had made less than 24 hours before. So where was his advice and had he ever had media training?

It is more important now than ever before to have been through some thorough media training that will test you against expected scenarios. After all as a professional rider you are likely to face criticism of your riding at some point. This is an investment for the future as a poor performance is likely to impact on your business whether you are small or large.

There are many examples where media training seems to have been ignored or forgotten including the CEO of Sainsbury’s and his singing. In fact you can see it every day in the news so as a communicator I would recommend reviewing interviews and making sure those you work with have been given relevant media training.

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The shape of the PR business

The PRCA launched the latest PR and Communications Census today and it makes for interesting reading. It shows the business is booming and the sector is growing which is all really great news. However, there are also some worrying findings within it.

We are still an industry that is not representative of communities. It is massively concerning because how can we really provide a service if we don’t have a diversity of views, opinions and ideas? Alongside that we have actually seen an increase in the gender pay gap and this is despite 66 per cent of the business being made up by women.

I also found it hugely concerning that there are still PR and communication practitioners that are using AVEs to evaluate their work. More than one in 10 of us still thinks that is an acceptable way to review what they do and we have to change this. After all if we can’t effectively evaluate what we do then I am sure the upward trend will get turned around. No CEO or senior manager is going to keep funding PR and communication activity if they cannot see and understand the impact, and also that impact has to boost the business objectives.

The press release launching the Census includes a quote from PRCA Director General Francis Ingham “As an industry, we should be proud but not complacent”. I agree with that there is a lot to celebrate that we do. We boost businesses, we help people, we protect communities, we educate and the list goes on. But what next?

It is vital that we use the information and figures within the Census to improve what we do. We need to look at accelerating work to make the industry more representative, to improve social mobility and to remove inequality. We need to push standards and share best practice.

We all have a responsibility to ensure we continue to build the reputation of the profession. The information is useful but it is what we do with it that matters and that includes using it to help explain the role of PR and communication within business and society. If you haven’t looked through the Census I would recommend you do.

Find details here

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A world of opportunity

Communication must be different across the world after all we don’t even speak the same language. It is easy to think that the activity within our country is unique or even that what we do in our business is set apart from the vast majority of PR and communication. In short it isn’t any of these things.

I was very privileged to be given the opportunity of attending the World PR Forum which this year was held in Oslo, Norway. It was a far cry from the usual day-to-day activity that I am involved in. Amazingly there were representatives at the conference from 44 countries. Many had travelled a significant way to attend the event.

At the end of my short time in Oslo I had come to the conclusion that we are all wrestling with the same issues and challenges no matter where we live. From Manchester to Oslo, Australia to China there is more that should bring us together than put us apart. That is if only we could see it.

My short trip made me realise that there is lot to gain from discussing everything from evaluation to crisis communication. We are all looking at how to ensure PR and communication is a profession, that we can find the links between what we do and what impact it has, and to make the most of the new technological developments. The Forum had three things at the heart of it: truth, profit and intelligence.

For me truth is something we must all seek to deliver in what we do and we must be able to articulate what it means. Profit well that is about making sure we can evaluate and show what we provide to the bottom line of the business. Finally intelligence has to be about maximising the data and technology we have at our fingertips but also to link what we do to the purpose of the organisation. The elements were relevant to everyone no matter where they were from around the world.

There was so much to bring communicators together from around the globe. I made some new friends and had an amazing welcome at the conference. I had the opportunity to look up and out and see what the global discussion was, and it was reassuringly similar. I think we all need to look out and make connections to those working in other countries. We have a lot to learn and share if only we make the time.

I have to thank the World PR Forum organisers and the Norwegian Communication Association for supporting me and giving me the opportunity to attend the event.

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Questioning social media

There seems to have been more written about the decision by JD Weatherspoon’s decision to withdraw from social media than any piece of communication activity for a very long time. I have resisted the temptation to get involved in the discussion but have given in now.

Anyone that knows me will realise that I am a fan of social media. I admit to being a little addicted but also enjoying the benefits that it brings to me as an individual. In the past 10 years with the team I have spent a lot of time developing our use of social media at work. It has been really useful for law enforcement. Many people will now contact police through social media who would have avoided contact, and it has helped to break down barriers.

In a crisis situation social media is essential as alongside traditional media it can get a message out really quickly. When your sole focus is on preserving and protecting life then you need to be ready to act and do it quickly.

There are, as we all know, huge problems with social media. It can distort situations, share fake news, support rumour distribution and give another environment for criminal activity.

The growth of social media has seen many companies and organisations jump on-board with little understanding of what they are doing and why. It is the latest thing everyone is doing so businesses feel they have to. I have seen many occasions where companies are doing things with no understanding of what business benefit it brings. My question is why do something if it doesn’t bring anything to the business?

JD Weatherspoon have taken a very interesting decision and I don’t think anyone can know yet what impact it will have on the business. It may mean they are not involved in conversations that take place online, which may in the future damage the reputation. It may mean they aren’t using social media to promote their offers but these are still available on their website. It may mean they miss out on opportunities to engage with new customers.

I will be watching the impact of the development with interest as I can’t think of another major brand that has taken a similar decision in recent years. If the impact is as minimal as Weatherspoon’s thinks then perhaps it will make us all question how and why we are using social media.

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No dress rehearsal

You might have spotted a new programme being promoted by Channel 4. In this latest lifestyle series people have the chance of leaving their life behind to go and do something more exciting. But why don’t we do this anyway?

I have had a week away from work which has been time to recharge my batteries, to relax and to spend some quality time with my animals. It made me realise again that this is no dress rehearsal and there is no waiting for the future as it is here.

How many times do you have something that you think you will keep for best? You wait to use it at some fictional point in the future. I have stopped doing this and instead have started to use things that I have.

I may really like my new T-shirt but if I wait for the right time to wear it then it may remain in my wardrobe for some time. I love the make up that I was given for my birthday but why keep it unopened?

Life is full of unexpected twists and turns. We can’t predict it we just have to live it. That means living today and getting the most from it whatever that is for you.

I realised this week that I have today and that is all I can be sure of. It means making sure I am living the life I want to, doing what makes me happy and making the most of what I have. I hope never to be the person who wants to go on that new TV show because I want to be making my own changes and living as I want to.

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