The final leg

The end of September is upon us today and if you are interested it is also a black moon tonight. We are reaching three quarters of the way through 2016 and as well as wondering where the time has gone I am also feeling a bit satisfied that I am within sight of finishing my year in blogs.

I am quite surprised that I have got this far with it without either losing interest, finding it difficult to choose a subject to write about each day, or missing the odd day. The chance to blog each day is one way of gathering my thoughts about what has featured in each 24 hours. It is an opportunity to explore what I think about events, issues, or features of the day.

One of the most interesting facts of the past nine months has been how disciplined I can be when I need to be. I make time each day to write the blog, and I spend time during the day musing on what the subject of the blog may be. I try to focus on the interesting, unusual, entertaining or informative in equal measure.

But I have to have the right frame of mind before I set out to write the blog. There is no point in starting to write it when I have anger, depression, frustration or other negative emotions swirling round in my mind and body. I need to put them to one side and focus on the point of the words I am putting together.

This has been a challenging year on many levels but has also involved as many positive events. Whatever has happened during the past year it has not been dull and it has involved extensive learning and self-reflection. So tonight is a chance to stop, take stock, take a deep breath and prepare for the final leg of the year in blogs challenge.

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People who need people

This week has had one common theme so far – the importance of people. You could argue that is something that features in every week and you would be right. But in the last few days there have been a number of reminders that policies, process, ideas and structures are all fine but they are nothing without people.

At the PR analytics workshop yesterday, people didn’t feature as strongly as I feel they should have. After all no matter who we work for we should be prioritising the people who buy, receive or use what we are in the business of. Unless what we do has an impact on those people then it doesn’t matter what the statistics and figures say.

Tonight I have been considering the importance of the radio phone-in as part of modern day media activity. They do have a clear following and seem to have no difficulty in finding people who are willing to talk, question, discuss and get involved. In a world of social media it is comforting that early morning, lunch time and late night phone-ins still exist. They would be nothing without the people who are prepared to dial in.

People working in big organisations and companies can easily forget that it is individuals that are important. It is the way messages are received that can mean confidence or reputational disaster. It is how people view organisations that can mean growth or bankruptcy. It is individuals that ultimately have the power.

One of the biggest problems for communicators is that we are working so hard, so fast and with limited resources. It can make involving the community a nice to do rather than a must do. In a world where people are bombarded by messages wherever they turn being able to stand out is a huge challenge as well. The first step is to recognise the importance of people to what you do, to modern life and to business success. The rest will then follow.

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Confident in the figures

It is one of the most debated aspects of communication activity and something that creates lots of anxiety among professionals both in-house and within agencies. The issue is that of PR evaluation, measurement and analytics. I was an interested participant in today’s PR analytics event organised by PR Moment.

PR and communication professionals spend a lot of time worrying about how they can make the links between what they do and the business bottom line. We worry but other parts of the business don’t. I have not seen the same level of concern shown by sales staff, legal people or financial people. They confidently talk about their outcomes even if they would not stand up to detailed scrutiny by statisticians.

It is time for us to get confident about what we do. We can find a whole range of ways to demonstrate the impact of communication activity. The key is not to want 100 per cent success or to worry about getting things totally right. It is important to understand the business objectives and priorities. Wherever you are that has to be the key to knowing what matters and then starting to measure what matters linked to communication activities.

This isn’t something that we get right overnight. We need to start and then develop. It was obvious from today that there is a lot of help and advice out there for us to access. AMEC provides a great starting point but then speaking to others about what they do and how they do it is helpful. Even if we are working in very different industries there are similarities which mean an opportunity to learn.

After listening with interest today I feel the key to making the evaluation and analytics much less complex and stressful is for PR and communication staff to take control of it. We need to be confident that they are measuring the right things and set about explaining this to whomever needs to know. Things will not stay the same so if it doesn’t work we can change and adapt.

Now is the time for us to stop worrying and to start doing after all the only thing that is holding us back is ourselves.

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By mutual consent

After I busy day I sat down to write this blog to hear the news about Sam Allardyce parting company with the FA. He managed 67 days and just one match in charge of the England team before leaving by ‘mutual consent’ following a newspaper expose that hit this morning’s media.

I find it hard to believe that a man who said he waited 30 years for the chance of taking arguably the top job in football could end up in this position. Where were his advisers and who was giving him guidance on what he should and should not be doing? People in senior positions in any organisation need their trusted advisers around them. They should have the finance expert, the legal expert and of course the communications expert.

Ultimately the decisions that are made are the responsibility of the person at the top but they should do it from a position of knowledge and advice from a range of people. If they ignore the advice then that is an issue for them but they must be able to access it. All too often communicators are not operating at that senior level in an organisation. They are seen as the PR people rather than the strategic advisers.

I have written in previous blogs about the importance of senior communicators being able to be many things. Communicators should have the best understanding of the organisation, the frontline, the culture and the landscape they are operating in. The communicator has he role of understanding the business priorities and objectives and then working to find the right approach, channels and message.

As communicators we should be pushing to achieve that spot as a strategic adviser. We do it through having a proven track record, commitment to excellence, a dedication to the role and the ability to provide advice and challenge in the right way.

Perhaps the England manager needs to have a wider network of advisers to access and be willing to listen to what is said. They may know about football but do they know about running a business? It will be interesting to see what happens from today.

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Staying away

Being away from home is not something I enjoy. It is more something that I tolerate when I have to. Today I wondered why this is and what I should do to find this more acceptable. After all some people spend many days and nights away from home as part of work and holidays.

Holidays may be a good starting point. When I was growing up we didn’t do the traditional two week family holiday. The most we did was a week and that felt more than enough. I never worried and I never felt I missed out, after all I had all I needed and wanted at home. It made going away from home not the exciting thing it was done for a purpose.

For the past 13 years I have been in the enviable position of having a horse and that comes with a huge amount of responsibility. I take that responsibility very seriously and holidays have become an expensive distraction. Horses are expensive creatures and so when I do have spare time I want to make the most of it with my equine companion.

Above all though I think I have so much I love around me that why would I go away from it unless I had to? That may all sound a bit cloying but it is true and I am very grateful for it. 

I now accept that I have to spend time away from home and to make the best of it. Work sometimes requires a night away and it can be a time to relax and unwind. I will try to make the most of it because after all absence is supposed to make the heart grow fonder.

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Remember the sacrifice

I spent a lovely day with my family. Today was about catching up with my nephew, my sister and my parents – three generations together to share some fun, stories and views. It was just what I needed after a long week and a busy seven days ahead of me. The happy family moments today were made even more poignant when I considered what was happening in London.

Today is National Police Memorial Day, a time to remember all those officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty. I have been following the updates and comments on Twitter throughout the day and it has been really emotional. The families who attended have had their lives changed by the loss of their loved one, and I cannot comprehend what they face.

It is important to recognise and remember those that have given their lives for others while serving as police officers. There are few jobs where people face danger on a daily basis and we should be grateful that there are people who want to step into those roles. Society relies on those people and what they are prepared to give for others. I know it is something I couldn’t do but I have huge respect for those who do feel able to do these dangerous jobs.

Having a day to remind people of this contribution and that of the family and friends who support their loved one is important. I am only surprised that there has been little coverage of it within the news. I checked Google News and there were around half a dozen articles that came up. I will watch the TV news later with interest to see if it features.

I am very lucky that I got to spend the afternoon with my family, while many families are torn apart when their loved one dies in the line of duty. Whether it is police, fire, armed forces we should take time to remember the sacrifice and say thank you.

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Knowledge and power

When did you last take a step into the unknown? When did you try something or do something with very little knowledge? It isn’t a position that we want to be in and I suppose that is why we say ‘knowledge is power’. We need to have a level of understanding of what we are going to step into before we make the leap.

I have found myself looking after an elderly bunny in the past few weeks. He has need lots of tlc and looking after following dental surgery. This is a first for me. As a child we had guinea pigs not rabbits and in the past 20 years I have always had gerbils as pets. So I have taken a leap into the unknown and I didn’t like it.

Even before I bought my horse I made sure I had done a course and exam in horse care to ensure that I would have a good grounding in what to do. I have always wanted to make sure I could deal with things so that I could do my best whether it was for the animals in my care, or at work. It is probably why I have continued to try to learn and take exams to keep doing my best.

Today I found a magazine all about rabbits that has provided me with some useful insight into my little lodger. It will help me to fill in the gaps in my knowledge so that I can keep him content. I don’t think this is a bad way to be but it can put an extra demand on you. I always want to do my best, I put my full efforts behind what I do, and that can mean spending lots of extra time to keep learning. It is what I am happy with and I hope it benefits those around me.

rabbit

Coco rabbit – my little house guest

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