As we head into the last few days of 2012, I decided to review what the year looked like for me through my blog posts during the 12 months. There were three clear themes that have emerged for me throughout this year. I am not clear whether they are a reflection of the world around me or of the things that have interested or impacted upon me?
I started the year with a discussion about the importance of honest and integrity in communication issues and it is something that has prompted me to blog in the last week. The point remains the same, we have to ensure there is an honesty in communication for it to be trusted and to support the development of conversations. It remains of particular significance for the police service but is equally important for those in the public sector and the business world. Given recent events I am sure that the importance of integrity will remain throughout the coming months.
Unsurprisingly the developments and use of social media have maintained a high-profile for me throughout 2012. I started in January by talking about the importance of the digital world in communication followed by considering how the social network Pinterest can support activity. In the summer there was a clear social media ‘hysteria’ being created and we have seen a year where the majority of traditional media stories still take a negative stance towards social networks. I still have a passion for social media and what it can bring to the communication mix. It empowers people both public and frontline workers, it supports conversations in a time of dwindling resources, and it presents new opportunities for innovation and development. My frustration remains with many communication professionals who will not engage with the use of social networks. I have spoken extensively about how I feel they are ‘short-changing’ their organisations or clients. I also have a frustration with organisations that put up barriers to using social media.
Social networks will become even more important in 2013 and I am sure that it will cease to be as much of a story when organisations and individuals use social media. There are a number of consultations taking place around what is criminal activity on social networks and on how the use of social media impacts on contempt of court issues. I am sure that these will present their results and help to ensure continued use of social media in the year ahead.
Of course, my year was significantly affected by the events in September with the death of two colleagues PC Fiona Bone and PC Nicola Hughes. The funerals in October were a tremendously emotional time and the events have had a lasting impact on individuals and the whole of the organisation. It brought home the importance of the work that my team do in communication which supported the families as a priority and also helped to support colleagues and the organisation as a whole. It was clear from the way the tragic events unfolded that we are in a new world for crisis communication.
In a crisis the issue will more than likely break on social networks before being picked up by the wider media. Communicating in a crisis requires significant resources and co-ordination and needs social media to be at the heart of it. That is why communication professionals have to use the quieter times to ensure they understand and can use social networks. When they are faced with a crisis they will be better prepared. The outpouring of emotion, feelings and views on social networks will need to be carefully monitored and managed in an appropriate way. One thing is certain they cannot be ignored. This is all changing the way crisis communication has been traditionally carried out.
This has been a rollercoaster year and in many ways the challenges faced have brought out the best from the team I work with. In the darkest days, people can give their best and do more innovative and creative work. I don’t know what the next 12 months will bring but I am sure that crisis, social media and integrity will feature along the way.