I was wondering today whether you can develop effective communication and engagement if you are in an agency responsible for enforcement? It followed an online discussion about the issue at the conference run by the Society of Evidence Based Policing.
The issue being considered was whether law enforcement activity fundamentally struggled because it was about coercion which could then undermine public confidence. I have to say this seems an odd position to take. Of course, the fact that people could face arrest, charge, conviction and prison when they meet the police is important. That said if you have done nothing wrong then why would you be concerned?
Every organisation will face a time when they have to be both tough but also communicate and develop engagement on other matters. The conflict may be when something has gone wrong, or when they have to challenge things in a public way. There has to be a strong message but it doesn’t mean this should create a barrier. All these things can be achieved without sacrificing anything. The key has to be having a creative and focused approach to communication.
There are times when the messaging has to be tough and there are times when it can have a soft edge. This is the way in the modern world. Having a brand and identity does not mean that you are rigidly stuck in being that same thing all the time. People will accept that organisations have different things to say and to deal with, and we should credit them with the ability to understand and deal with this.
It is up to companies and organisations to prioritise effective communication and engagement as a means by which to have a more reasoned discussion about the strong arm elements and also those softer things. Putting appropriate specialists with skills and experience in place should be part of the core of agencies if they really want to avoid any conflicting message, branding or imagery.
The police service does face a unique challenge where it must be part of the community but also hold people to account for criminal or antisocial activity. I know this creates challenges but it also provides opportunities to develop communication that can increase community confidence rather than damage it. At the heart is investing in the right communication support to mitigate any risks.