Understand the comms team

Those in the know have said that Steve Jobs read all the press release issued by Apple. It may sound as if that is obsessive behaviour for a CEO but there is more to it than that.

In the early days of any organisation the brand and the image that are portrayed are essential to success or failure. If you hit the right note then you are going to grow, but be seen as irrelevant and the business may fail. The way the brand is established is through the communication and customer service. Both are critical to the future.

Was Steve Jobs right to know what was being issued? Absolutely, he needs to know that the communication department, who represent the organisation, are prioritising what is important to the business. The PR team need to be clear about how the business will be positioned, what matters, what is not important and what the future vision is.

This is part of the reason why I believe strongly that communication needs to have a seat in the boardroom. It needs to have a close working relationship with the CEO and operate at the highest level if it is to really be effective. The communication lead needs to have the best understanding of the organisations current position and the journey to what it wants to be in the future. Understanding the person at the top is a fundamental part of a successful communication strategy.

Of course, it is about much more than press releases. An effective communication strategy has to understand the channels and which ones are more important to the organisation. It has to have a detailed understanding of where to focus attention and have the narrative that the CEO wants to be told. Nowadays Steve Jobs would have struggled to see all forms of communication including social media posts. If he had wanted to see each of those then it would have severely hampered the delivery of communication.

Seeing everything is one thing, but having to approve all communication is something different. The first means you can keep a close watch on what impression of the business is being given, while the second means you are going to prevent swift and effective communication delivery.

Perhaps if Steve Jobs had more confidence in the team around him he would have been able to ease off on the need to read through all the press releases and instead trust that they could deliver the results.

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A sixth PR personality type

I read an interesting article today about the top five PR personality types by Chris Norton which outlined them as creative, plate-spinner, eternal optimist, networking extraordinaire and trend chaser. (http://influence.cipr.co.uk/2016/07/26/top-five-personalty-types-pr-people/) I think it misses one really key type that every PR and communication team needs – the doer.

The doer is the person who can be relied upon to deliver results, deliver them on time and will be creative as well. They may not be the most creative person in the team or the one that knows all about the latest developments but they get things done.

You may think that this is the same as the ‘plate-spinner’ but if you read the article it clearly isn’t. The ‘plate-spinner’ is about rushing from one thing to another and it is difficult to hold their attention. This isn’t the same as the doer who is the person who may feel like a pack horse or the wall that is holding up the whole team.

They are the person who will put themselves forward to take on additional work, or will work late, and if you need them to come in at a weekend they will. Above all, they do this without looking for plaudits or awards. They would rather get their head down and finish the task, and they will get their reward by seeing a positive outcome.

Every team needs a blend of people with different skills, knowledge and experience and the best teams need a range of personality types. You need the people who come up with the ideas, and the people who will challenge and question, but above all you need people who will get the job done. Often we want to be seen as one of the most flamboyant or positive people but not the quiet person who gets things done.

I write this in praise of those hard workers who will keep beavering away, much of the time unseen, to complete the tasks and get results. All teams need to say thank you.


Posted in Uncategorized, communication, CIPR, Chartered Institute of Public Relations, creativity, #ayearinblogs, PR | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Move fast but with a plan

I was reading an article today that was discussing the value of apps to share immediate messages in a crisis. The writer questioned why it had taken so long for the French authorities to share messages this way, particularly as it was something they had highlighted from previous incidents. It is easy to challenge the decision making but we need to understand the problems and pitfalls as well as see the opportunities.

Crises can take many forms but at the moment the threats from terrorism is something that are occupying the thoughts. Being able to respond quickly when a situation emerges is more challenging now than at any time in the past. The technology developments and rolling news as well as the societal changes have made everyone demanding of immediate information. This is problematic when authorities are focused on ensuring they get out the most accurate information as once the inquiry starts to review the decision making they don’t want to be found wanting.

Maximising the use of all available channels to get the information out has been the priority. But with communication teams under pressure due to reductions in staff, it will become less about channels and more about the approach, the messaging and the support of other agencies. The priority has to be getting the right message to the right people and to correct inaccuracies wherever they are found.

Behind all the technology there are still people needed to launch the system and to check what is being said. If you take for example the Twitter Alert system it isn’t automated and needs someone to push the button to use it and also to write the tweet. It is something that critics should remember when they are reviewing the communication response to a situation. From the outside the world is a very different place.

What is vital is that we all have emergency communication plans that are up-to-date, tested and ready to go at a moment’s notice. We need to have staffing available to draft in so that we can not only deal with the initial stages but can continue to work round the clock for a number of days. Getting vital safety messages out in the initial stages has to be the priority whether that is through social media, an app or the traditional media. There is no quick win involved, it is about hard work, determination and a commitment to move quickly and deal with it.

All communicators need to reassess their emergency communication plans and be clear how they would be supported. These are challenging times.

Posted in Uncategorized, communication, social media, emergency services, social networks, challenge, crisis communication, #ayearinblogs | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Are you good enough?

From a very young age we learn to put ourselves down and not to appear too confident in our own abilities. If we are bright at school we try to play it down so that it doesn’t create any unnecessary attention. If we have a particular skill we often try to hide it particularly if it is something that is not seen to be ‘cool’ with friends. It is the British way to put ourselves down and not to want to accept praise for what we do.

But I am not sure this is a healthy position for us, especially when young people find it curtails their life chances. If we don’t have a level of confidence and self-belief then why should we feel we are able to achieve our dreams? This might sound a bit like me wanting everyone to be running around telling the world how good they are. But this is not going to happen. Human nature means we don’t want to stand out from the crowd as it is an uncomfortable place.

What I want to see is young people being given the support and boost so that they believe in themselves. I want to know that young or old they believe they are good enough to achieve whatever they want to. The only thing that is holding us back is ourselves. After all, if we don’t think we are worthy then why should we feel we can grab those things we want to?

A positive outlook on life means we need self-belief and to feel a level of control over our lives. Without it we are drifting along or being pulled in directions that we might not want to take. There is a lot of negativity and darkness in the world and we have seen it a lot recently. We can be the light that makes the world a better place if we believe we can and are willing to do something.


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Value those experiences

How many times have you bought something in a bid to cheer yourself up? I often say I need a bit of retail therapy when I am feeling low. So, I was interested to read an article today that said I should stop wasting money on things and look to spend my money on having experiences. (http://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/want-happiness-buy-experiences-not-more-stuff)

It goes against logically thinking to spend money on experiences. After all those come and go and often we have nothing to show for it. On the other hand if we have been out on a spending spree then we have a whole heap of items that we can use, look at or enjoy. But psychology Professor Thomas Gilovich from Cornell University has studied this and believes that we quickly become used to having the items we have bought.

The experiences we have last long in our memories and we also have the anticipation of the experience to savour. I can see this. If I think about today and what I have done it was the lovely hack on my horse that was the best experience of the day. I can tell you about it in detail, how it looked, what we saw, the smells and the gentle rain on us. If I close my eyes I can feel myself back there again many hours later. Yet the few items for sewing that I treated myself to will exist in the home, will be useful, but don’t hold the secret to long term happiness.

I suppose it goes back to the Buddhist way that enlightenment isn’t about having things and it is about divesting yourself of all things to move to a higher place. If we surround ourselves with things then they are just things. Happiness is about much more than that.

Gilovich says experiences reflect more of who we really are. They are said to be closer to our inner selves as we are ‘the sum total of all our experiences’. So experiences are about our social selves. They allow us to get closer to others that we don’t get through inanimate objects. This is true. The hack today was shared with four of my friends from the stables and then through social media shared wider on Facebook. (see below)

Perhaps we should all start to value those experiences in our lives rather than focus on acquiring more things



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Now or tomorrow?

In the past couple of days some friends have had very sad news to share. They have had life changing issues to contend with. It has made me contemplate a few things about what I am doing and what I face in my life.

It is very easy, for me at least, to start considering the future challenges before I even reach them. When I am feeling quite down about life nothing appears to be positive and I can only see trouble ahead. 

My approach means if I am not careful I miss out on all the good stuff that is around me on a daily basis. I have written before about the importance of a gratitude journal and saying thank you. I have also considered the recent push to get people to consider mindfulness and what it can bring. I am coming to the conclusion that my answer lies somewhere in the middle – between future planning and mindfulness.

Realistically I need to plan for certain elements of my life whether that is financial or personal. Without planning I could find myself struggling to deal with basic parts of living. But I have to stop myself trying to predict what the future may hold as none of us know that.

When I was having my riding lesson on my horse who is getting old. I was in the moment. He may be 20 but he rode like a seven-year-old and that was a moment in time that I must treasure.

The challenge for me is to find the balance between now and tomorrow and to train myself in the way I think about life.

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Give a little

Sharing is one of the most important ways of interacting with people. If you have something or know something then why wouldn’t you want to use it to help others improve their lives. After all as human beings we are by nature social beings so we should want and need to make a positive connection.

Today, I spent a bit of time with some colleagues visiting Wigan Council to look at the work they have been doing on developing digital services and more. We are keen to learn more about how others are approaching the challenges and what opportunities they are seeking out. It was a really useful couple of hours discussing the relevant issues and sharing knowledge and experience.

Unfortunately, this is something we don’t do as often as we should. Many of us get stuck in the daily grind of work and ensuring that delivery happens on time and in the right way. Taking some time out to share a problem and look to others for how to find a solution should be a key part of our work life. We don’t all have the answers and as my previous blogs have outlined this week we should focus on learning and developing.

Learning and developing comes in many forms and does not have to be all about the formal classroom. We can learn a lot by asking questions and listening to those who have greater knowledge and experience.

We can also do more to share our own knowledge and skills. The profession or career that we are part of needs us to help to create a better future. For me, as a communicator, it means sharing the learning I have from more than 20 years and there are many ways of achieving that. But it will mean giving up one of the most precious things we have – time. Devoting some time will benefit others as well as ourselves so perhaps you should try it by getting involved in some way.

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