A small social media world

The events in Paris a week ago were truly shocking and left the world stunned. It often feels a world away when such incidents occur and we can safely put ourselves in a different place. But for me Europe was going to be much closer this week. What happened in France took place just a few days before I was travelling across Europe.

My trip to Vienna was to take part in a European study looking at social media and emergencies. The project is called EmerGent for anyone who wants to find out a bit more about it. In a nutshell it is trying to find the best ways to use social media data if you are in emergency services across Europe but also to discover how citizens can make better use of social media at critical times.

It is obviously a huge subject area and one that a lot of people will have a view about. For some social media has made managing emergencies even more complicated and difficult. For others social media is a way for people to get involved and help deal with the incident and the recovery phase.

The meeting involved a whole host of emergency services staff both operational and from support roles from across Europe. Representatives from Germany, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Latvia, Spain and Italy oh and of course the UK. It was an honour to be part of the group and to share knowledge and experiences.

Of course there are many differences. One of the biggest was that across Europe people use 112 to call for emergency assistance but in the UK we haven’t yet publicised it and have focused still on 999. It is something that makes sense to have a clear number for anyone travelling across Europe to know they can use to summon assistance no matter where they are. Something we in the UK need to do more to promote.  The biggest difference is that we all work within slightly different legal frameworks.

But despite all the differences there are far more similarities in what we are all seeking to do. The key for all was to ensure that we could provide the best possible service, but also make good use of the data that is now readily available through people using social media. We all wanted to encourage citizens to work with us and to do this all the time so that we could make best use of it at times of crisis. We all were trying to grapple with the problems of managing the data with the limited resources available.

Above all there was a universal recognition of the importance of getting the use of social media right both now and in the future.

I left the beautiful city of Vienna with a new enthusiasm to drive forward the use of social media data and to move towards creating predictive analytics. But also I want to ensure there is a clear conversation with citizens so they understand what is needed from them to help during an emergency. It is a huge piece of work but one that brings some exciting opportunities.

I am looking forward to being able to contribute further to the EmerGent project and am grateful for the opportunity they gave me to be involved.

Posted in emergency services, Europe, social media, social networking, social networks, twitter, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

One cup of tea and an act of kindness

You probably don’t know that tomorrow is World Kindness Day. It isn’t the sort of thing that gets much media coverage and I doubt it would be trending on social media. But it is a day when we are all being encouraged to do some random acts of kindness, or help out our fellow human beings in some way.  (If you want to find out more check it out here https://randomactsofkindness.org/world-kindness-day )

Really thought, we shouldn’t need a special day to do good things for other people. It should be part of our DNA and something that we do without having to think about it. However, that is a long way off and I will have to accept we need World Kindness Day to try to encourage people to think about their actions.

This week a police officer took a call for help from an elderly couple. He attended and found they were lonely and wanted help so they didn’t feel so isolated. The PC Stu Ockwell made a cup of tea and spend a bit of time with them. It is the sort of thing that police officers and other public sector workers are doing every day. But this story, originally put out as a tweet, suddenly attracted international media interest. Details can be seen on the local TV report:


I agree with the people who felt it was a lovely heart-warming story, it is. I agree with people, that it highlights what the police do that isn’t arresting criminals but is still valuable and valued by communities. I also agree that such stories are an antidote to the negative issues and stories that often fill news bulletins.

But there is one thing that concerns me. This should not be seen as so unusual. It is time that we all need to step up and play a more active part in our communities. If the lovely couple had been my neighbours I would have felt ashamed that I couldn’t have offered them more help. I spend a lot of time away from my neighbourhood working, seeing my horse or enjoying myself. So, I asked myself, do I really know who my neighbours are and would they be able to call on me for help?

Earlier this year my 85-year-old neighbour died and I was one of only a dozen people who attended the funeral. Over the past 20 years I had chatted many times, my partner had changed lightbulbs on Christmas morning, and I had phone to sort out a problem with her phone line. Simple things but things I know she appreciated. Living on her own she knew we would always be there to help. Now the house is empty and I am waiting to meet the new neighbours but I often think of Dorothy.

Tomorrow on World Kindness Day I will be going out of my way to make sure I leave a positive impression and can make someone smile. I hope that I can help my new neighbours in the way we were there for Dorothy, and I know I will be looking at how I can do more to support my community. What will you do?

Posted in communication, kindness, policing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Moving away from darkness

This is the final of my mammoth blogtober challenge. Tonight being Halloween I have been wondering why we delight in the horror and darker side of life. Do we really want to be in that place all the time or just for one day during the year?

I was reading this week about research that stated that human beings are by nature good. It is something I hope is true because we need to grasp onto that now. Why now? Well, we are in a world where for many years amassing things, goods and products has been our primary focus. We have been told we need more things to make us happy.

In the past five years we have come to realise that we haven’t got the money to keep buying things to make us happy. This means we have to reconnect with our core values, beliefs and inner self. For me this means thinking about others and finding a way that we leave positivity wherever we have been. I have written a lot about understanding the impression you make and how that is viewed. It is becoming more and more important for me, but I believe also for many others questioning the previously accepted elements of a happy life.

Can we all do more? Of course, we spend most of our time thinking about ourselves and then possibly our loved ones. Very little time is spent on thinking about how to improve our neighbourhoods and communities – well for most people. But a growing number are finding ways to improve lives and they have reconnected with the goodness of being a human. This may sound a bit cheesy believe me it isn’t.

Tonight may be a celebration of the darker things in life but let us all make sure it is only one day of the year. In a true Star Wars style battle good can conquer evil and the more of us that share kindness and positivity in the world the better it will be for everyone. So tomorrow, find a way to make someone’s life that bit better.

I have enjoyed the past 31 days marking #blogtober but think I will deserve a little break. If you have a subject you would like me to blog about let me know. Roll on November.

Posted in #blogtober, blogtober | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

10 reasons I love my job

As I am reaching the end of blogtober, I am going to indulge myself a little in the final blogs. So today I have been reflecting on how lucky I am to be doing a job I love, but also trying to unpick why I love it so much. Even when it is really challenging I still want to get up and head into work.

During 2015 I have found myself having a new-found energy for work even with the struggle with a lack of resources, increasing demands and a lot of additional pressure. The first thing I have to say is that I think I have one of the best communication jobs in the world. I work with amazing colleagues and as a team we share, laugh, and support each other. If you want to know more check out a recent blog about our dysfunctional family. But it is more than that.

I feel this is a communication job that matters. It is a chance to help frontline police officers and help them both catch criminals and keep people safe. This brings with it some additional pressures to support the 24/7 activity with 24/7 communication assistance. It means that the activity you undertake is constantly in the spotlight, and decision-making is always likely to be challenged.

So what do I feel are the reasons I love my job?

  1. It is a job that matters and can make a real difference.
  2. I get the chance to be creative and innovative
  3. It is a supportive environment
  4. There are regular developments and changes that keep things fresh
  5. I work with an amazing team who care
  6. It is not a case of can I do it, but I will do it and when do you need it
  7. Professional communication support is valued and included
  8. The work continues to be hugely interesting and varied
  9. It tests my skills and abilities on a daily basis
  10. Every day is different and brings something new

I could probably continue to add to the list but the sentiment will be the same. Don’t get me wrong I know I moan sometimes, I get tired, I get grumpy and I can become obsessed with work. But despite that for the vast majority of my time I am proud to say where I work, am happy to talk about it endlessly, and love what I do.

I wonder how many other communication professionals would be happy to share the reasons they love their job? I am keen to hear from others.

Posted in #blogtober, blogtober, communication | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Drowning in data

A lot of organisations are on social media and are sharing significant amounts of content every day. For communicators using the new technology there is a lot of discussion about making sure the use is being evaluated. With most organisations aiming to be as lean and efficient as possible every bit of work has to bring results. Using social media needs to bring results from the investment of time.

If we start to look at the analytics that are available now it can be overwhelming. The data can provide everything from simple details about what is popular and what time of the day posts get the most views through to a move towards predictive analytics that can identify trends for you before things happen. In fact there is so much data available it could easily become a full-time job to review the analytics and keep refining and changing how you are utilising social networks. But that can’t be the right thing.

I have to feel that part of the joy of using social networks is the learning that real people do when they are using it. Things are done because they feel right, things are checked out and reviewed and yes at times it involves looking at the data available. But I don’t want to drown in a tidal wave of data.

Today I had the chance to view the possibilities for the future. It is a focused approach to analytics, knowing what you are doing and why you are doing it, and more importantly knowing what you will do with the data you recover. If we are to maximise our time it means analytics that work for you, that alert you to key information, that bring the key trends into your inbox and that mean you can act quickly.

I will keep you informed in the coming months about whether my hunt to find the best way to use analytics brings results. With the increasing pressure to do more with less, financial constraints and a growing workload it needs to come sooner rather than later.

Posted in #blogtober, blogtober, social media, social networks | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is PR just about fluffy stuff?

I was asked a question recently about whether PR can lose its ‘fluffy’ reputation. The reputation I think it refers to is that it is all about softer communication focused around making bosses feel warm and fuzzy about the organisations they lead. That could be a little unfair but I do understand that historically that is the view that many people have had of the whole PR industry.

How wrong they are. Today the world of PR for me is all about financial management, reputation management and operational benefits. If you are working in PR and are not boosting the reputation, income or output of your organisation then you are not doing your job. This means PROs need to have a seat at the management table so that they have a detailed understanding of the DNA of the organisation and are able to influence decision makers. It also means they have to understand the processes that are involved, what it takes for the decision from the CEO to be implemented on the front line.

In my working day PR is about tackling some of the most difficult and challenging subjects to communicate. Colleagues spend their time working on campaigns to highlight issues such as modern slavery, domestic abuse, and child sexual exploitation. The work is about supporting front line policing operations finding ways to help bring offenders to justice and help people feel confident to come forward for help if they are victims.

It is easy to label PR as fluffy or spin without really understanding what modern public relations is all about. For anyone who wants to dismiss it all then I would urge them to spend some time looking at what some organisations are doing, or better still why not ask to go and speak to them about their work. For me PR is definitely not ‘fluffy’ and in the challenging economic climate I don’t think it can be.  Now it is time to redefine what PR is.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Recognising everyday bravery

Today I have only one thing that I feel it is appropriate to write about. This is a day to spare a thought for all those people working in emergency services who put themselves into dangerous situations. They do it to keep us all safe and there are acts of bravery happening every day in our communities.

Tonight is the Police Bravery Awards and there will be many stories of sacrifice, risk and heroism that will be heard at the ceremony in London. In my time working with the police I am continually in awe of officers and staff who do some of the most amazing work. They do it to help us when we are at the worst moments in our lives when we are affected by crime or antisocial behaviour.

The officers that are at the Awards in London will have put themselves at risk in order to protect others and keep people safe. But we should recognise not just these significant acts of heroism, we should note the great work that takes place on a daily basis. The times like when I spotted thieves stealing a neighbours car in the middle of the night and I was alone, the call handler put me as much at ease as they could inthe circumstances. Or when officers had to break the news that my Uncle had died suddenly to be Auntie and they looked after her helping at what was a really traumatic time. And the time when my elderly grandmother had an intruder trying her bedroom door on the night before my grandfather’s funeral.

At all these times the police officers were a huge source of help and comfort, and they were acts that were really appreciated. It may not have involved saving anyone but the care and time taken made a real difference.

So as well as recognising the acts of bravery we should spare a thought for the police officers and staff who are working tonight and will be trying to help people facing traumatic circumstances. I never cease to be amazed by what our emergency services do and the fact that they just refer to it as ‘just doing my job’.

Posted in #blogtober, blogtober, police, policing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment