So you are a head of comms

I have been interested in the discussion taking place in the last few days about the role of the head of communications. There has been an issue raised about how hard being the most senior communication person in an organisation is, particularly in the squeezed public sector. But what does the head of communications actually do?

In many cases I am sure the senior people in organisations are not really sure themselves what they want from the person in charge of the communication function. They are not sure what they want from the changing communication landscape itself and it all becomes a very confused situation. This makes it critical for the person given the responsibility to lead communication to be clear about what they believe the role is and what they can bring to the business.

Being a head of communication means you have to be able to scan the whole organisation and understand how it works. You don’t have to know the minute detail but you are expected to know what it is, how it functions and where the priorities are for the next five to 10 years. Alongside that you have to be able to keep up-to-date with the developments in communication, what works, what opportunities exist and how you can make best use of the changing landscape for the organisation.

There are a whole range of skills that the senior communications person needs to have. They have to be resilient as it is a tough world where the responsibility stops with you. It is your decision-making that may be put under scrutiny. You have to be calm and confident in the middle of the worst possible situation. When the crisis happens it is up to you to be the voice of reason, calm and support to deal with things. You have to be able to influence at the highest level. Often you will be the lowest paid of the senior managers round a table but that can’t affect how you operate if you want to be effective.

Above all you have to be a leader and be able to motivate a team, providing training and support, bring in new talent and build and rebuild a team as people leave and join. Any leadership position can be a lonely place which makes having a strong support network really critical for a head of communication.

So why do we do it? After more than 15 years at a senior level and as I start my ninth year as a head of communication I can say it is because there is no better job. It is pressured and tough but you get the chance to see things develop, come to fruition and really benefit the organisation. If you are in the public sector it can’t be about the money so it has to be about the opportunities and the feeling of having a positive impact on people’s lives.

We have lost some of the best public sector heads of communications as they move on or retire but I believe there are many keen people ready and willing to take on the responsibility. For me it still remains an interesting, exciting and rewarding job to have.


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A time to grow

After more than two weeks trying to get over a horrible virus I am finally starting to feel better. It has meant I can start to look to the year ahead and some predictions of what may be ahead.

It is going to be another challenging year with the start of stepping away from Europe and closer to home the election of the Greater Manchester mayor. There is no doubt that public services will face more budget reductions and as communicators that is going to bring extra pressure.

But that difficult environment brings opportunities to demonstrate what communication can do to help manage change and uncertainty. There is a chance for public sector communicators to get more involved in helping to shape the future as they have a unique position that gives a broad understanding of the service.

The 12 months ahead is a time for public relations to grow into a strategic function. All of us working in the industry have a duty to elevate what we do by focusing on ethics, delivery and frontline benefits to organisations. This is our time to redefine public relations as much more than promotion.

For my part I want to end this year feeling that I have been able to help communication and PR grow. I want to play my part in moving things forward so the future is bright for the industry as it has a huge amount to offer to 2017.

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Achievements not resolutions

It is the first day of 2017 and I could have easily said today of all days would be one where I don’t blog. After all I have just completed a massive challenge of blogging every day throughout 2016. But as it is the 1st of January there is something that compels me to write. It may also be that this is the first day since 23rd December that I have actually felt close to human and that feels like something to celebrate.

This is not a time to start making resolutions. We know that for most people resolutions have been broken within the first few days of the New Year. Mainly this is because we chose things that we think should be good for us rather than things that we really want to achieve. Without the passion it is just empty statements.

In fact what we should be doing is outlining what we want to achieve in 2017. What are the things that we want to be able to look back in 12 months’ time and say that we have completed? I have a number of things that are already at the forefront of my mind for 2017 including putting my writing into a few other areas and not just blogging. However, I will still keep blogging in the coming year.

There are a number of work related challenges that I have ahead and I will look forward to them for the moment when the pressure isn’t yet on me. I will be doing all I can to change the perception of public relations and communications so people can see the value of it. And as this is going to be my last year as Chair of the Association of Police Communicators I will make sure I have completed all the work I set out to achieve around four years ago.

Of course 2017 will always be about the animals that share my life. I will make sure that they have everything they need because they make me smile and are there in good times and bad.

Finally, and most importantly I will use 2017 to continue my push to focus on what I have to be grateful for and also to carry out random acts of kindness. I want to look back on how I have improved the 12 months both for myself, those around me and those I don’t know around me. Let us push on and make the most of every day in the year ahead.


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The end of the road 

Today is not just the end of 2016 it is also the end of my ‘a year in blogs’ challenge. There have been times when I didn’t think I would make it and in the past two weeks when I have been ill I really thought I might fail.

But tonight with this blog I have reached the end of the road. So what have I learnt and what has it given me?

It has been a great way to reflect on what is happening to me but also what is going on in the world. This has been a rollercoaster year on both fronts. There have been huge events taking place at home and abroad. 

I have had some of my own highlights which have included becoming a chartered PR person and going to Rome as part of an EU project. I have my beautiful animals around me and for that I am very grateful.

This year has brought challenges with tough times at work and some health issues to battle, including right at the moment. Through it all I have had some amazing support from family, friends and work colleagues.

As 2016 draws to a close I have lots of people to thank and they know who they are. I have been given such fantastic support and hopefully people have found some of the blogs interesting or entertaining. I wish you all a fabulous 2017 and let us make it amazing for those around us. Happy New Year.

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Honoured or not

There is a lot to be said about why we do certain things in our life. When it is something that we want to do then we do it with passion. It is that bit extra that makes it special.

We will be reading a lot about those who have been awarded honours for new year. It doesn’t matter what you think of the system because what most of them have in common is a passion for the thing that they do. It is what they have invested time and energy into and that is what is being recognised.

I am lucky enough to know a few people who have been honoured for different reasons. They have all had a determination to succeed and to make a difference. They have done it over many years so there has been a clear commitment.

I know there are many others whose work goes unrecognised so perhaps we should find ways of making sure it gets noticed. It isn’t all about the honours but should be about saying thank you when we witness such great work. So to everyone receiving honours and those that haven’t but should be recognised well done.

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Relying on others

It is now over a week since I developed flu and during that time the most energetic thing I could do was getting out of bed in the morning. I can’t remember being this ill in my lifetime except perhaps as a child when I had chickenpox.

All of the demands that exist in my life have needed others to take on. I haven’t been able to go to work so have relied on the team to keep things going. I haven’t been able to ride my horse and have had to ask others to keep him fit.

At home we have run out of food so I have had to rely on my other half to go shopping. It wasn’t the best shop ever but has given us some basic supplies. 

What have I been doing for the past week? One thing – sleeping. It seems to be the only way to help my body get over this flu. There is nothing more frustrating when you want to do things but have no energy and end up tired. As the days go on now I am just praying that I will start to feel better.

This isn’t the way I had expected to spend Christmas and New Year. 

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Coughs and sneezes

The human body is a frail thing. We like to think that we are able to withstand a lot but it takes surprisingly little to floor us. For the past week I have had what I thought was a cold but now I think must have been flu.

Every day I have been hoping to feel better but with no luck. Yesterday I ended up at the walk-in centre after succumbing to an ear infection. So I have now had a cough, cold, sore throat, sneezing, fever and now ear infection. I am not sure my body can cope.

I was finally given some antibiotics so hope that I will clear this bug soon and before something else happens. We try to look after ourselves and even if we do can still become ill. Frustratingly there is not much to do other than take the tablets and rest.

Of course rest isn’t something I am very good at so this week has been very long and annoying. It makes me a difficult patient for those trying to help as I am angry and ungrateful.

I am only hoping that I start to feel better soon as this has been a very dull and depressing Christmas where my body has let me down and succumbed to illness. 

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