The work of the team was put under the spotlight today by a whole range of people from diverse communities and groups. It was a good opportunity to explain more about the communication work we do but also to then check whether this is resonating with a range of communities. If it isn’t then what do we need to do?
I was interested to meet those taking part as I didn’t know most of them and they were able to provide a new perspective on the work we do. The value of the four or five hours was significant and opened my eyes to a few things. But what a common theme was throughout was the importance of engagement.
Through the use of social media we have convinced ourselves that we are connecting with communities. Don’t get me wrong it has brought us a lot and we are able to have two-way communication in a way never before seen. But this is only a section of the community, and there are still many people who won’t do business online and avoid using social media. The challenge is how we can ensure direct engagement in other ways particularly as there is still a squeeze on staffing at all levels.
Communication and engagement are two sides of the same coin. We need to have strong communication activity that can get the message out to the right people at the right time. But we need to have the support of an engagement strategy to assist in the delivery of those messages but also to do much more. I don’t think organisations have really started to think in those terms and I don’t believe engagement is only an issue for public sector communicators. I think engagement is called other things in businesses but it amounts to the same understanding the perceptions and views of the organisation and then working to improve things for whatever end.
I have seen many organisations where communication has been split between a range of functions and engagement is kept somewhere else. There may be good reasons why things have developed in a particular way but I would question whether this is maximising the efforts of all those people. Think how much more could be done if all aspects of communication and engagement were kept together and had a direct link to the CEO.
I am very grateful for the time and energy that people put into the discussions we had today and I just hope I can now bring the ideas and suggestions into the development of communication.