A moment in time

It is the time of year when kindness should be in endless supply. We try to focus on thinking of others and honouring them with presents and gifts.

Now is the time to make others smile even if we don’t know them. I have been really touched by some lovely messages from people I don’t even know. They arrived out of the blue and they really cheered me up.

There were also some chocolates that arrived in the office. It was a wonderful gesture that the team are in people’s thoughts particularly after such a difficult year.

Every day we have the opportunity to do things, even small things. Our random acts of kindness can change people’s lives or just bring them some joy when they may be facing darkness. It is easy to forget about this in our busy lives that become even busier at this time of year.

I have a lot of people to thank and will start to do that before these Advent blogs end. Today I was just so grateful that a few people had taken a moment out of their lives to think about me and my colleagues in some small ways.

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My Christmas tips

I am totally fed up of hearing about various minor celebrities, vloggers and reality TV people talking about how to have the perfect Christmas. I have blogged a couple of years ago about the fact we need to be wanting a good Christmas but stop stressing about everything being perfect because life isn’t perfect.

As an antidote to all the consumerism and fake sentimentality I have decided to give you my Christmas tips based on trying to have an OK Christmas.

  1. Christmas is a state of mind so it doesn’t matter if you are working on the 25th December you can make any day your Christmas Day with family and friends:
  2. Don’t put your decorations up until about 10 to 14 days before Christmas. It means you can enjoy them, avoid massive electricity bills and everything will feel fresh for the big day.
  3. Make memories and give experiences rather than things. It takes a bit more thought but the impact will be so much more. It is about the thought that has gone into the present rather than how much you have spent.
  4. Think of others. The spirit of the season is good will and charity so remember those who will still be in need of help over Christmas. Donate to a food bank or toy appeal or help a local charity. It will make you feel good and help others in the true spirit of Christmas.
  5. Recognise other celebrations. Today is the start of Chanukah and there are many other religious festivals at this time of year that we should be aware of so we can help others celebrate.
  6. Eat simply. Buy what you need and not what you are being sold. Keep things simple so that you don’t face days of indigestion.
  7. Remember some people and animals need to keep their routine to be happy. Keep their needs in mind when you are trying to organise your day. And be aware that for some people this is a difficult time of year that puts them under mental and emotional strain.
  8. Finally remember those who will be working or on call Christmas Day. My colleagues in the emergency services will still be there to help as will nurses, doctors, utility workers, those taking care of animals and many others. I have been there myself and it can sometimes feel really hard.

Christmas can be a lovely time if we keep the spirit of it in our hearts and don’t let the commercialism take us over.

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Fantastic but emotional

It is often said that music is the food of love or that it can bring people together. If this year has taught us anything it is that music can help the healing process.

Tonight was the annual Force carol concert which is always a time of celebration. It usually involves some singing of carols, some choirs and musical arrangements. I see it as the start to my Christmas having been at 15 of them. This year’s was slightly different and more poignant.

The event was held at Manchester Cathedral just a few short strides from the Arena. It was a time of reflection and remembering.

This year we were entertained by he Manchester String Quartet and a stirring rendition of Don’t Look Back in Anger as well as the amazing Parrs Wood Choir who were seen at the One Love concert. The GMP band in their 140th year demonstrated the skills that entertain across Greater Manchester and help raise thousands of pounds for charity.

It was a fantastic evening but at times very emotional.

Having walked around the Christmas markets before attending it reminded me once again why I love Manchester. It is an amazing city. People have always got time to stop and chat, they are there to help or just to give you a friendly smile. It is why I stopped to help a tourist trying to find a hotel as I was heading home. We needed to help and be the friendly face of Manchester.

It was a privilege to be in the audience tonight and after 16 years and 15 concerts (I have only missed one) it continues to show how music can unite and bring people together.

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The real thing

I don’t want to comment on the death of Max Clifford as I know there will be family and friends grieving their loss. One thing we do need to talk about is the reputation of the PR and communication business.

For years we have let the profession be defined by the characters in Absolutely Fabulous or the celebrity publicists. We have failed to speak up and talk about the real work that takes place day in and day out.

We have to provide the alternative view if we are to banish those champagne swilling lovey darling images. There is nothing further from the truth of my life and many others.

I will be in the office by 7am tomorrow picking up any issues from over the weekend. I will be looking at how we can help victims and tackle crime. I will be finding ways to develop engagement with local people. I will be responding to any emergencies and will be doing it all with a cup of tea.

Along with colleagues I will be working over Christmas and New Year. There will be little glamour and no celebrities.

This is the real view of communication and PR in 2017. It is what I have known for more than 20 years. This is the reality we need to share to banish any previous views. As I have said before it is time to PR PR.

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Out of the comfort zone

I have had a number of conversations in the last few days about life and how we make our way through it. We go about our daily business generally within our safe areas.

We spend time with the people we know. We go to the job we are familiar with. We probably have a very similar routine for most of the days. There is nothing wrong with that and there is a lot that is comforting about the familiar. But every so often we need to push ourselves and take a step into the difficult, the challenging and the unknown.

It may mean going out to a new venue or stepping into a new environment on your own to meet new people. There may be some food you want to try for the first time. There is so much out there so many opportunities.

So what is holding us back?

That is the key question and the basic answer is there is only us holding ourselves back. What we have to do is step out of our comfort zone and push beyond our limits. We can do this in lots of small ways. It is feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

For some it may be talking to a room full of people or going out alone for a meal or to the cinema. It may even be talking to a stranger on the bus or train. We all know what feels difficult and uncomfortable to us.

For me this can be going into a strange social situation or stepping into a place where I am going to know nobody. It makes me anxious and concerned which is why I need to face things and put myself into that scenario. After all I don’t want to miss out and find I am limiting myself.

Wherever your boundaries are, find them, recognise them and push them. Go beyond and step outside your comfort zone.

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Stressful socialising?

I am sure regular readers of this blog know how much I love my job and working in communication. People often ask me why don’t I switch off but when it doesn’t feel like work then why would you. But it is still important to switch off sometimes and that is what I will be doing tonight.

For the first time in a while I am going to a Christmas party. This one is a bit unique it is with a lot of strong and independent women. They are all people that I have met through my life coaching, retreat and reiki.

It is an amazing network of support that I value really highly. This is women supporting women in a really powerful way. At the heart of it is Amy Lawrenson who has created this wonderful group that I am lucky to be part of.

Of course like most people I am nervous about going into an unknown situation and socialising is often stressful. But I am looking forward to the chance to switch off and chat.

I have a lot to be grateful for and tonight I want to relax and say thank you to a lot of people who have helped me through the year.

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A thank you and hard work ahead

I had a major surprise today. A few months ago I decided to stand for election to the PRCA Council. It sounded like a great opportunity to discuss the issues affecting the PR and communication industry among representatives from across the profession.

I was delighted when I was among the in-house communicators that were elected to the Council. The year ahead was looking interesting.

It was a bit of a spur of the moment when I decided to stand for election to Vice Chair of the Council. There were many eminent professionals involved in the election. So you can imagine my surprise today when I found I had been elected.

This is a great opportunity to discuss the issues that matter to the profession. It is a chance for me to give something back to the profession that has given me so much. I am really looking forward the getting stuck into things and working with people from all parts of PR and communication.

There are some significant challenges and opportunities ahead for the profession which the Council can get involved in discussing. I hope that the work will bring parts of the profession together to consider these issues in a collaborative way.

If anyone has any points to make, issues to consider or areas for discussion just let me know. Finally a big thank you to everyone who voted for me I am truly grateful.

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