I had a great opportunity tonight to talk about a subject I love – my work in public sector communication. The regularly weekly #commschat was given over to the discussion about what makes public sector communication different, challenging and enjoyable all at the same time. It was a fantastic opportunity to review what we deliver, how we work and think about what we could do differently.
There were a few themes that came up during the hour long Twitter based conversation. One was about the challenge of doing more with less, of delivering results when you have a reducing budget and few staff. At the heart of this for me is to know your priorities and understanding your communication business and how it supports the organisation. You can’t keep doing everything and need to be clear about what matters.
Alongside the prioritisation is the need to be creative. This means giving people the time and space to think about things differently and develop new ideas. It also means you have to be willing to take a few risks and to support the attempt to do things in a new way. Creativity, innovation and opportunity are three essential elements for making a difference in public sector communications.
For the freedom to deliver new things in new ways you have to have the support of bosses. You also need to have explained to the wider organisation about the role that communication plays and what it delivers. If you are going to be put under pressure to have an impact with little or no money then you have to be able to try new things, take some risks and do this without fear of failure. After all failure is really just an opportunity to learn. I am grateful for the support me and the team have to push the boundaries of what we do. It allows us to do things and seek forgiveness if we need to rather than keep having to ask permission. The freedom cannot be underestimated.
Of course communicators have to demonstrate that they understand the business of the organisation in some detail. They have to be able to advise at all levels of the organisation. They have to have gained the trust of senior executives and bosses who are willing to listen to their viewpoint. And they have to be invited to sit at the board level so that they can advise at an early stage. It means finding an organisation that is enlightened enough to recognise the contribution of communication.
Above all what was unanimously agreed was despite the lack of money, the challenges, the pressure, the demands, the competing priorities, the 24/7 work and many other things, all those working in public sector communications loved it. They did it because they wanted to make a difference and that was what made it a truly addictive job.