Do you remember your first job?

I was so excited to start my first job just a few years ago (well more years ago than I like to think). It was on a local newspaper that I had done work experience on. There were pluses and minuses to it. It was close to home and in an area I knew well but it was also a shoestring operation with some very odd characters. Above all this it was doing a job I had longed to do.

For many people the first day at work can be a bit of an anti-climax you build it up for many months or years and suddenly find out about all the mundane things. I do to remember getting a scoop on the first day as a report. Instead I had to learn about the deadlines, where the bathroom was and churned out many fillers and NIBS.

I was lucky it was a job I had really wanted to do and I was doing it. I had also spent the best part of 15 years longing to do that very job. It was an amazing position to be in. I had for a long time known what I wanted to do and with a bit of hard work and luck I was now doing it. 

This week I took part in The Juice Academy boot camp. For anyone not aware what that is, it is a process to find a social media apprentice. These are young people aged 17, 18 or 19 who are looking for a 12 month apprenticeship to get them into the world of work. It was a full day with tasks and then I did a five minute interview with each of the 50 young people. They were from all walks of life and with very different characters.

It was the most wonderful experience. They were bright, energetic and hopeful. I wish I had been able to offer a place to more than one. I also hope that a few other business may consider this route as a way to give a young person a start in life and one foot on the ladder of their career. Times are hard and life is tough for many. I know I would have loved to start work as a journalist at 18 but I chose to go to university. But at least I had the choice unlike many today.

So tomorrow we welcome our first social media apprentice into our team. It will be her first day at work and I will be remembering how I felt all those years ago. I just hope we can live up to expectations and make it a great experience.

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Social media heroes or villains?

I have had the privilege this week of being handed the access to the Commshero Twitter account as a guest tweeter. It has been really enjoyable being myself but using someone else’s account. But I have also felt quite a pressure to ensure that I am doing the best I can with every single one of the tweets.

Tonight  (23 July 2015) a new programme starts on ITV2 called Safeword. I am waiting to view it but it appears to be focused on celebrities allowing their social media accounts to be hacked by others. I am not sure it is going to make fantastic viewing but it made me wonder why me using another account and accounts being taken over was such a big issue.

For all of it the key is reputation. When we post anything on social media it has the potential to either enhance or damage our reputation. We all have to be effective and proficient communicators in the 21st century. Just one badly worded tweet or inappropriate Facebook post has the potential to become an international story or issue in a way that a wrong word said in conversation never could.

We all try to build a positive reputation and for celebrities a poor use of social media has the likelihood of backfiring and creating more problems for them. I am surprised that they have had many of the famous coming forward to allow people to take over their social media accounts. I am sure that many people who potentially viewed the hacked posts didn’t realise what was happening and the result may be a loss of confidence and trust.

At work we give many hundreds of police officers and staff the ability to be able to post and tweet on behalf of the organisation. This is done with training, monitoring and ongoing support but I can understand why many companies are still struggling with this concept. The potential for reputational damage is always there which is why the training is so important. I know that many of the officers and staff who are taking this opportunity are also aware of the responsibility they have taken on.

It is good to be aware of the pitfalls and potential problems, but I am sure that giving people the opportunity of using social media for corporate accounts has to be the way forward for all. This week tweeting on the Commshero account has been an eye opener for me and I will approach my social media posting with a little more scrutiny from now on.

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In support of the BBC

I have waded through the very long document that is aiming to prompt discussion about the future of the BBC. It was a challenge to go through the many pages dissecting the organisation and its output but I felt as a communication professional it was important to do.

The green paper was a clinical review of the organisation and it felt as though it was working from a starting point that change was necessary regardless of the feedback. The language is at times incredibly negative and is being developed to skew the discussion in my opinion. There appears to be a distrust of anything that is popular with the paper suggesting that if it is liked by many people then it shouldn’t be created by a public broadcaster.

Believe me I don’t have some rosy view of the BBC. They have caused me many problems at work over the years and I have often queried some of their journalistic priorities. Despite all this I value having a broadcaster that isn’t dictated to by the advertisers and has the opportunity to do things a bit differently. I don’t mind that I pay into it provided that the maximum amount is being spent on delivering quality programmes.

I agree that, as with any large organisation, the BBC should review how and where it spends the money it has. But I don’t believe that we should start from a wholesale cull of the channels and the output. The variety should be valued and protected. It is the BBC that were able to support some amazing documentaries that my team have been involved in developing including the recent one The Detectives. I worry that this may not be something that happens in the future.

The BBC News Channel must remain. If we end up with only paid for news channels perhaps we will see a more Fox News style than we have been used to. Again the variety is what we must protect. The same must be said for the BBC news website, just because it is successful does not mean that it has some monopoly that must be broken up. Value the quality journalism that exists.

I would recommend that everyone takes the time to read through the Government’s green paper and make comments about what they believe the future should look like. If we don’t speak up then whatever happens we will have to live with it.

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Value the specialist

I felt compelled to write a blog today because of a number of recent events. There are many professions that exist and many professionals that are undertaking them every day of the week. The reasons they are known as professions is because of the training, experience and knowledge that is required to do the job. For me it is about the commitment you make to a career path and how you build up skills over a number of years.

I believe that I am a communication professional. It is an area of work that I have spent more than 20 years working in. I undertake training whenever I can and I keep up-to-date with developments so that my skills and knowledge are relevant. As I look to the future I know that I will continue to work in this communication and PR profession.

Being within a profession is something that increasing numbers of people don’t appear to value. I am sure other communicators will be aware of the situation when colleagues in other areas of the business believe they know better than you. The challenge of decision-making goes beyond what is reasonable as they disregard the skills, knowledge and experience that you have. I am becoming increasingly frustrated and have no patience with this approach.

Communication professionals are brought in to do work because they possess a whole range of abilities that bring specialist knowledge to the organisation. Why pay for this specialist knowledge if you believe you can do better?

I know that promoting PR and communications as a profession is something that needs to be prioritised. We can all do our bit to keep showing that this is a profession in the same way as accountancy, lawyers or doctors. We can do this in everything we say and more importantly everything we do. I am attempting to gain Chartered Practitioner status with the CIPR as part of my continued commitment to being a professional. It is time we all recognised the importance of continuous professional development if we are to build the reputation of the industry. It is within our gift to ensure that communication is seen as a profession and it must start today.

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Keeping the news in our front rooms

I read something today that made me sad and worried at the same time. There is apparently some discussion taking place that could see the BBC News Channel moved to purely an online output. This is at a time when the BBC is under pressure to reduce costs and review the service it provides.

It would be a dark day if the only way to access BBC news is through the Internet. The fact that you can access updates about events around the world through your television is something I believe is incredibly important. Of course the world is moving on and people access TV content through computers and access websites through their televisions. The reason I am bothered about this is that there is a generation who don’t understand about how news is gathered, shared and how to evaluate it.

In recent weeks I have been able to talk to young people considering careers in journalism, public relations and the media. They have shocked me by how unaware they are but also that they don’t seem interesting in questioning things. I remember (not that many years ago) when I was a teenager I would want to know how the news is gathered, what makes a good story, why do we hear about some things but not others, how can I trust what I see, hear and read in the news. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be something that potential communicators are considering.

For me news has to be at the centre of life. It has to be something discussed with friends, it has to be in the conversations with work colleagues and it should be in the centre of our homes – inside the television. It is my hope that if we can introduce news channels into our daily lives then we will be informed but also take a critical interest in what is being covered. I am concerned that communications may struggle to evolve and develop if the next generation are not able or willing to question.

We all need to encourage people to take notice of the events around them, to be interested in what is happening and above all to keep discussion about news within our front rooms.

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I love my work, even during my holiday

I love my work. No, really I love what I do and there is always something positive to take away from each day in the office. I know I sometimes moan about the little things that frustrate me or the fact I have too much to do in each working day, but despite all that I am lucky to be able to say that I enjoy my job.

I was reminded about how much I love my job a few times this week, and not least because I have had a week away from doing it. Holidays are great even for those who love what they do. It is by taking some time away from the daily pressures that you can start to see things in a different light. Stepping out of the frantic activity gives you the chance to review from an outside perspective. That problem that has been plaguing you can sometimes be quite easily resolved when you have a bit of time and space.

The break also allows you to rebuild and strengthen again. I find it is a way to disconnect but strangely to also reconnect with the work and why I want to do it. When I leave for a break I have to accept that I am going to be detached from what is happening. Ok, so I have still been checking my emails every day, but I have not been able to get my hands dirty and get involved in what is happening. As is often said absence makes the heart grow fonder and it is true. I stop being caught up in the minor annoyances and instead reconnect with why I love the job.

I had the chance to discuss my work with pupils at a local school this week. It was part of an introduction to the world of work and a lunch meeting where they can learn more about different occupations and professions. I love being able to talk about the work I do now and that I have done in the past. We covered everything from what you have to do to be a mounted police officer through to how the media get news. It is incredibly hard for young people now who face some really difficult choices to make at a very young age and I wish I could do more to help them.

Being able to talk about my job during my holiday summed up what this week has meant for me. It has been about reconnecting with why I enjoy what I do, and trying to explain this to others and excite them about the world of professional communications. I needed a short break not just to relax and recover but also to reconnect.

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Leadership means keep learning

Leadership is a much overused and a little understood word. In these times of financial challenges and reductions in staff we are often hearing that we need to develop new and more effective styles of leadership, or we are told that leaders need to be the ones making the changes. But how much support to bosses provide to allow leadership to be developed?

In a time of plenty there was enough time and money available to allow people the space to consider their leadership style and how they interact with colleagues. There was individual coaching and mentoring opportunities, and team building days and 360 appraisals. Unfortunately, now when we need to ask more of people we are struggling to find the opportunities needed.

This is why it is vital that we invest some time and thought even if that needs to be out of working hours. We should all be looking at how to develop ourselves further both in the role we currently have and for the future. Change is happening and it is not going to stop so finding ways to help staff become more comfortable with it is essential.

Everyone in a leadership role needs to be working together to bring the best out of the company, whether that is in streamlining or in developing and expanding. That is where internal communication is vital. The vision and principles of the organisation must be clearly understood and there must be an agreed definition for things. In that way there is a consistency throughout the organisation from top to bottom.

I was fortunate last week to have the opportunity to talk to Mary Keightley about effective communication and the development of leadership. Much of the focus has to be on understanding yourself and how you interact with others. But none of this will have an impact unless you can value the differences of other people. There are different motivations, approaches and priorities that people have and leaders need to understand and appreciate them all. But also to bring things together.

In all this change and uncertainty the communicator and the internal communication professionals have a central part to play. There is no time to stay still we all have to keep learning.

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