It is Monday and the return to work after the weekend. This is the time that many people will be dreading the commute into work but hopefully many more are actively looking forward to getting stuck in again. I have written on this blog many times about my views of the job of the police communicator and the role it plays. I am lucky enough to say that I still really enjoy the job even though it has many challenges.
But the role of police communicator is becoming one that is incredibly difficult to recruit into. Many forces around the country are struggling to find people that are interested in the roles on offer. It is threatening to become a crisis for police forces that need specialist communications support to frontline officers and staff. I spoke to PR Week about the issue and you can check out what it says on the link:
The roles are really frontline and there are a whole selection of examples of how it supports operational policing, bringing offenders to justice and protecting people and communities. Among the examples I know are occasions when a video witness appeal led to an arrest within 12 hours, a wanted person placed on a force Facebook page led to him contacting police, a missing woman was found through a Facebook appeal, victims have come forward to police to report incidents because of awareness campaigns and PR activity.
With the challenging public sector finances the work clearly supports officers and takes some of the pressure off them. It is massively rewarding when today we were able to turn around a story about great police work publicising it through media and social media within hours of it taking place. Officers and staff do amazing work every day and it is important people are aware of it.
The problem we have is that a lot of people don’t understand the role, what it contributes and how it gives professional communicators the opportunity to expand their skills and try new things. I have had people say a number of times that they imagine I am ‘told’ what to do but this could not be further from the truth. I am asked my professional opinion and encouraged to take risks and innovate.
We need to highlight the benefits that the roles bring. It is a fantastically varied role providing an opportunity to get involved in all forms of communication as well as gain management experience. Staff can develop quickly and have strong crisis communication skills. It isn’t all great. There are challenges.
You need to be incredibly resilient because you never know what is round the corner, which is one of the joys of the job for many. No day is ever the same and clock watching really isn’t an issue. You need to be able to negotiate and influence at all levels which then allows you to make a real difference to operations and the service the public receive.
Police is a 24/7 business, but so is the world of communication, so you need to accept working outside of regular hours. You obviously need to have an understanding of law and particularly media law. It also requires you to be a problem solver but with that comes trust and support for you to put ideas into action.
We are facing a difficult time at the moment so I hope that police communicators will come together to raise awareness of the vital work they do.