We are stronger together

I was busy sat at my desk concentrating on clearing a few tasks before I left the office for the day. The rolling news is always on in the office but the breaking news banner caught my eye. Another potential terror attack on the streets of Europe and I couldn’t quite believe it.

From that point I have been grabbing as much information from the news reports as possible I had to try and understand what happened. My thoughts immediately were with those injured and the grieving families of those who lost their lives. I also thought of the emergency services who responded swiftly and were rushing into face the danger.

It is nearly three months since terror was brought to my own home city. I wasn’t in the frontline and have total respect for those that are. But I was affected by the work I had to do and have taken some time to manage my thoughts. Events today have weighed heavy on my mind. I thought of all those affected by events in Manchester, the victims, their families, those injured and still recovering and all those who went into face the danger. I am sure many will be affected by what has happened in Barcelona today.

Terror attacks have a significant impact and while the day-to-day business will continue many will be living with the incident for a long time. It changes people’s lives and many need support to help them not just in the immediate aftermath but in the future.

When we join together and unite in the face of terror we gain strength. It is when we are strong that we can ensure there is support available for those who need it. We can look out for those who are struggling or in need. We can help to rebuild are communities. 

My thoughts are with all those affected by the incident in Barcelona and with all those living with the impact of terror attacks around the world. Love will always shine through.

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Is this the right time?

I should have posted this yesterday. The time got away from me and I wasn’t able to post it. Does it matter? I will leave you to decide. But one of the key elements of communication is that it is timely.

When a major incident happens we have to respond immediately. Everyone is expecting messages to be sent straight away. They have questions that need answers – what has happened? Where should they go to be safe? How can they help? How do they trace loved ones? We have the channels available now that mean we can act quickly and keep a flow of information going.

All PR and communication needs to be timely. It isn’t just an issue in an emergency but every minute of every day. We need to share information at the right time and that is obvious in the business world.

Events at the weekend in America were shocking and horrific. The choice of words and the response time were critical. People wanted those in charge to speak but when Donald Trump spoke his words were not accepted by commentators and many Americans. Did he respond quickly to get the situation under control? No he waited until yesterday to say what people had been waiting to hear.

The damage caused by the delay will only become obvious in the days to come but it has reminded me of the importance of a swift and thorough communication response. In this busy world where we are all rushing around and are connected 24/7 there is no option to delay. 

All communicators need to ensure they are supporting their organisation, business or brand round-the-clock. CEOs and leaders need to realise they have to be swift in their response and listen to the communication support. Time is not on our side and assessing quickly and then responding is an essential skill.

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A four-legged thank you

I feel compelled to blog tonight about one of the most important things in my life and that is having animal companions. I can’t remember a time in my life when animals have not been part of it. 

Today my little adopted bunny friend Coco had his third dental operation and I am ready for a weekend of nursing him. So I find it hard to comprehend why people abuse animals. Why do we need to have a week long series, Animal Rescue Live, to find new homes for the abandoned pets? Why do we have such low sentences for animal cruelty?

Animals bring so much love into our lives. From the smallest gerbil, and I have shared my life with many of them, to the largest horse, and I have one of those, they ask for little and give a lot. They teach us about responsibility, about caring and about putting others first. They provide us with therapy and help us relax, and they teach us so much about ourselves. 

All they ask for is food, water, shelter and lots of love. They don’t judge us or say hurtful things. They don’t make demands or  worry about what people think of them. They just are. Every minute of every day they are caught in the moment which has to be the essence of mindfulness.

I am very grateful for all the animals that I have had the privilege of sharing my life with. They have all taught me so much, given me so much and helped me on this rollercoaster life. There has been heartache along the way and worrying moments like today as I waited for news about Coco the bunny but that is just a small part of what we share.

I would not be without animals in my life particularly my current buddies – Edward the horse, Coco the bunny and Dave and Albert gerbil. 

Tell me about your furry friends and why they are important to you. 

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Stepping forward

If recent events have taught us anything it is that we need experts in communication roles. For years we have been asking the question why isn’t communication given a seat at the top table and how can PR and communication be seen as a profession. Now the stakes for businesses and organisations are even higher with a lot to lose.

I have watched with interest the events in the White House. I raised my eyebrows at the appointment of someone with no knowledge or experience to Director of Communications. Within days or almost hours he had caused embarrassment by his actions that at the least were naive. 
I read the comments from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) following the recent Times article about the tragic case of Charlie Gard. This was a hugely promising step to see the industry speaking out about the importance of ethics and standards. We don’t do enough to challenge some of the behaviour that is seen at senior levels in organisations.

The Public Relations and Communications Association ( PRCA) has raised similar issues about the importance of ethics and standards within the industry. In these difficult times communication can help us through. But if we don’t stand up and show the openness and transparency of what we do then we risk becoming part of the problem.

This is an industry that I love and am very passionate about it. It is much maligned but now is our time to step forward. This is a profession, it requires skills and knowledge but above all done right it can improve our lives. 

Posted in challenge, Chartered Institute of Public Relations, CIPR, communication, learning, media, PR, prca | Leave a comment

Mood music

I see this morning in the news that Boots are being criticised for the wording used on a promotion. It appears to support the use of plastic at a time when people are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of plastic on the environment. 

This reminded me about one of the things I have been talking about a lot in recent weeks – recognising the mood. It seems the promotion and advertising people didn’t recognise the mood that exists around plastic. As communicators this is something  we fail to do at our peril.

Communication campaigns and activity can be won or lost due to the mood around it. If we get it right it will work and there will be praise but get it wrong and it will damage the business or organisation. This is concentrated when we are in the middle of a crisis situation. 

We sit and write communication strategies and plans. We try to work out what is the most important thing to do to support the business and the business objectives. We hopefully are using insight to support our understanding of what activity will work. But do we consider the environment factors, what is happening around us and most importantly the mood that exists?

Organisations and businesses can appear really out of touch if they say or do the wrong thing. As Boots have found out it can be just a wrong word or phrase that creates negativity and may damage reputation. In the modern world of social media all of the words and communication around and from an organisation can be shared worldwide instantly. The pressure is intense to get it right.

The key has to be ensuring we keep our customers or service users at the heart of what we do. We need to be listening more than we speak to gather all the views and information and spot emerging trends or issues. It is what makes effective communication so complex and challenging to achieve. There is no formula that will be guaranteed to be successful every time. 

The mood of the community, place or country cannot and should not be ignored as understanding and reacting to it is a critical factor. Let me know your thoughts and views about listening to the mood. 

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A moment of clarity

This has been an exceptionally busy year and an unbelievable couple of months which have created huge demands on the team. I have been caught up in things and work has become even more critical to my life. Now I admit I can be a bit of a ‘workaholic’ or at least I struggle to switch off. Every year I have holiday days that I have not been able to take and I would rather be in the middle of things at work than watching from the sidelines.

Work is a huge part of my life and I take a lot of personal responsibility for what does and doesn’t happen. I see it as part of the role as head of communications to be on top of things and available – it comes with the job. Before the past few weeks I kept saying how I was fine without holidays and I could continue functioning well.

The past 10 days have been the first break for some time and unbelievably the first time me and my long-suffering other half have been away together in about 15 years. It was an amazing relaxing break but as I explained during tonight’s Commschat it didn’t mean completely switching off from the office. That would be too much. But I kept a watch from a distance and minimised my time checking emails and social media. That was the best way to achieve a work/life balance without creating additional pressure on myself.

Today I returned to work with a spring in my step. The lengthy ‘to do list’ I had was completed before the end of the day and that was despite a number of meetings throughout the day. My productivity level was back to normal and I suddenly realised how much events had taken their toll on me. Before my break I was feeling overwhelmed with things, struggling to see the wood for the trees and achieving nowhere near what I usually can in a 24 hour period. It wasn’t just at work; the impact was felt at home.

I have achieved a moment of clarity where work and life have come into balance and I have been able to recharge my batteries to be operating on full power. We all need that time away from the pressure of modern life and the round-the-clock communication demands. One of the first things I did on my return today was identifying when I should look to take some time out and prioritise my own well-being. Don’t get me wrong I will still be checking social media and email, and would return to the office if an emergency hit. But I will make sure I can recharge to be operating at 100 per cent.

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People Like Us

When we watch the news or study past events our focus is usually on the big picture. The aim is to get ad much information as possible often in as short an amount of time as possible. History focuses on big events, strategy and planning. and those few leaders and famous people. But that misses the most important element- individuals.

The impact of events now and in the past on real people’s lives is where the most compelling story lies. If you think about the news reports that have the most impact they are usually when we see events through the eyes of the people living it. So called ‘ordinary people’ are the key to really understanding what is happening.

The same is true when we look back at events in history. I had a love of history at school and that was mainly due to the fact we studied the lives of real people. We looked at social and economic history which was less about battles and more about the industrialisation of the UK. 

Last night I watched the newly released film Dunkirk and while I know what happened the strategy and plan I had not thought about it from the individual perspective. It was moving and left me overwhelmed with emotion and why was this? It was because it looked at events through the eyes of a soldier, a pilot, a boat owner and others and each became a personal insight. Moving because these are real people with real lives.

As communicators we can often get caught up in the strategy and planning. We focus on the big picture and those key people involved and we miss the most important thing. Real people and seeing them when we are looking at a planned approach or the impact of an incident. I have written many times in this blog about the importance of real people to our work.

I believe is essential to have this understanding and ability to see the individual impact if we are we to have effective communication. It is not the strategy that will mean our approach does not work if it misses the target it will be because of people. We may have failed to involve them, failed to understand them or disregarded them. 
When we sit and are confronted by a problem at work or we watch a report of events around the world try to think about the individual lives that are involved and what it is really like for them. 

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