We take a lot of things for granted in this life and I started to realise how much I valued my washing machine when it broke. It meant I had to do something I have never tried before – visiting a laundrette.
It was an eye opening experience. People came and went. They did their own washing or they picked up washing that had been done for them.
In good Northern tradition everyone was talking to everyone else. Lives crossing for the briefest of moments. For me it involved talking about the joys of having a house rabbit, the state of the weather and being given a very detailed run down of the owners family situation. I am not complaining about it because this helped me to feel connected to the world.
I was given the opportunity this week to talk at the GCS Northern Conference about police communication and how it works both at strategic and tactical level. I explained how for me communication and PR has to support the frontline delivery and if it doesn’t then we need to ask why we are doing it. Understanding the organisation and what it does, how it works and what the processes are is also essential.
Communication is all about people. Understanding what people think of you and your organisation is essential. It will help you know what to do. One of the most valuable things I have done in 20 years of police communication was spending time sitting in public meetings and residents groups and listening to what was said. It was a way of feeling first hand the problems people face, what they needed, what frustrated them and what they valued.
I know for many brands and businesses this might not be as easy to achieve as going out and sitting in a meeting and listening but there is a lot of data and insight that exists. We need to use this and any other opportunities to support our communication work.
My trip to the laundrette will not have been time wasted. I had time to chat about life and to understand a little bit about the priorities of the people that came and went. It connected me to a different part of daily life and that is also critical to bringing the strategic and the tactical together. It is a phrase I have used a number of times this week ‘keep it real’ that has to be at the heart of what we do.