In this ever controversial and fast paced world it can be difficult to keep focused on what matters to people. Given the work I do it is easy to get caught up in the latest media frenzy around some particular issue. Often these are just a hyped frenzy around some relatively minor situation or issue and you have to ask if they have any relevance to the vast majority of people?
The Leveson Inquiry attracted a huge amount of media coverage but if you ask the average person about it, it is of no consequence to them as they are much more interest in the financial situation and whether they are going to suffer from rising prices. I am not going to comment on the latest police integrity debates that are raging and being discussed extensively within the media. I will leave that to the commentators and reporters.
What mattered to me this week was the feedback I got from people who had been asked in a questionnaire about communication and what mattered to them. It wasn’t a surprise that they want to know what is going on in their communities and they valued being kept up-to-date as quickly as possible. But what did clearly come through was a demand for this interaction to be an honest conversation and for an integrity around the information that is released.
It is an incredibly important point for anyone from a public sector agency that has any responsibility for communicating. Being open and honest in what you say isn’t something that you can do for a day or a couple of days it has to be at the heart of what you do, so that people build up trust in the individual or the organisation they represent.
Central to building this trust has to be the face-to-face interactions that take place every day. It is incredibly important although time consuming but luckily in the modern world can be supplemented by the work that takes place in conversations using social media. It is why front line staff need to be supported to develop their operational use of social media. If they do it as an extension of the face-to-face communication and take an open and honest approach it can become a valuable part of business activity.
In reflecting on a year which for many public bodies has seen them face a challenge to their integrity it is vital to remember the relationships that matter are being developed all the time by front line staff. If they can take an open and honest approach then the benefits can be a groundswell of trust that cannot be taken for granted but can be built upon. As we near the end of the year, the questionnaire results make me feel very positive about what can be achieved in 2013.