Crime on the increase….it isn’t all bad

We seem to be in a position of confusion. We want to have crime figures reducing but we also want to know that people who have done things wrong are being dealt with. Today the NSPCC released figures about the number of child abuse cases and there was a huge amount of concern, shock, and discussion about the increase.

It is not a simple situation and we seem to have a split personality over things. There is a relentless pursuit of falling crime figures that seems to be hunted by the media. Any increase like the one highlighted today is weirdly seen as a bad thing. But how can it be a bad thing? Surely to have a more accurate picture of what is happening in communities is the best position to be in.

If we know we have a problem with child abuse, domestic abuse or cyber crime then we can start to do something about it. There is nothing to be gained by things happening out of public view, going on in the shadows because if that is taking place then how can it be tackled? If we think there is no crime taking place can that ignorance really be bliss? Will we see policing as successful when we have kidded ourselves that there is no crime taking place?

Let us all be realistic. Policing is successful when the picture of crime is fully understood by everyone and it can then really be addressed. Take for example cyber crime if people came forward to report what was happening then we can understand what is taking place. This means we can work with other agencies so they can recognise the problem and support finding solutions. We can work with the digital companies who can help find solutions in the technology. And we can make an accurate decision on where and how scarce resources are used.

Of course if we want to sit in blissful ignorance that is also possible. Simply don’t report crime, don’t tell people about problems in your community and don’t complain when criminals are running around unchecked. We know there are lies, damn lies and statistics, and we can make the figures say anything. Now is definitely the time for a huge amount of honesty.

Remember when you read the headlines and the stories about crime figures that when reports are increasing it isn’t a bad thing. It is merely giving us something to work on.

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Around the world in 80 seconds

The past few days have reminded me how small the world is and this brings both positive things and some challenges. On Tuesday morning, I was quickly made aware of the terrible events in Canada. A police officer had been killed while on duty. It is easy to wonder why that has anything to do with me here in Greater Manchester but it did. The officer who so tragically lost his life had been working in Greater Manchester Police for four years before he moved to Canada around eight years ago.

Suddenly a series of events many thousands of miles away had become something of huge significance for me and the team. My thoughts are with the family of Daniel Woodall, and also his friends and colleagues. The world has definitely become smaller in the past 48 hours.

I also started to write a list of the things I love about social media and what it has given me. (More of that in a future blog.) As I did that it was clear that it has brought me within easy reach of professional communicators and police officers across the world. I am lucky enough to have connections with people in America, Canada, Europe and Australia. Social media really has made the globe a much smaller place.

In the past few days I have started to do some research ready for a paper that I need to write. (Again, more of that in the future.) The subject is related to crisis communication and social media and in identifying some key research it has taken me across America and Europe. The information is as relevant on this continent as it is on others. When I was growing up and then doing my degree I could never have imagined how easy it would be to gather this information from across the world.

The world is shrinking and it is easier than ever to travel without leaving home. The key for us all is to make the best use of what we now have around us.

One final thought is to ask everyone to remember those working in emergency services around the world. They put themselves at risk for us on a daily basis. Something worth thinking about.

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Behind the headlines, remember social media isn’t all bad

There has been a lot of coverage in the last couple of days of the number of crimes that have a link to Twitter and Facebook. If you believe the coverage there has been a huge increase in crimes related to social media. But if I do my ‘more or less’ (the Radio 4 statistics breakdown programme) there seems to be more to the story than you would think on first reading.

The information came from a Freedom of Information request. However, buried within the article was the line that put the whole story into context. It stated that the only way police forces had been able to gather the data was the search the systems for mentions of Twitter and Facebook on the crime reports. So does that really mean that the crime has taken place on social media? Absolutely not.

All it means is that when the crime report was being taken there was a mention of Twitter or Facebook. This could be because the crime has taken place on social media, and for some cases that will be true. But for most it will be that it is an incidental element to the crime itself. Take for example the case of a neighbour dispute. It will be happening face-to-face on a regular basis but then statements could be made, or threats, through social media. That doesn’t make it a social media crime but just a location that is involved.

The media seem to love any opportunity to say how much of a problem social media is, and to blame it for many of the ills in society. For this story there is definitely more to it than meets the eye. Just because many crimes will happen around transport hubs and railway stations doesn’t mean they are bad places. Likewise Twitter and Facebook are not bad places to visit, it is just what people do with them that is the problem.

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Up for the challenge?

I have come to the end of the challenge. This is my final #ablogadayinMay report. Over the past 31 days I have talked about a whole range of things from baking to FIFA. It seems May has been quite a busy month and not just for me but in the world. I have mixed emotions about this being my final blog for May 2015 but there will be more blogs to come although not one each day.

The whole purpose behind setting myself this challenge was to see what I am capable of. It was to test a number of things my creativity, persistence and dedication. It has taken a huge amount of discipline to find time each and every day to share some thoughts. But I wonder why we don’t set ourselves more challenges at work?

For many work becomes a place where we spend 7 or 8 (or possibly more) hours each day and we do what is asked of us. There will inevitably be a job description that outlines what those expectations are, which makes it clearer. We can do the same thing day after day, and year after year. So why not stop and set yourself a challenge?

Trying something new or different or pushing yourself out of the comfort zone of what you know is essential for continued development. I continue to be surprised by the number of communication professionals that are not involved in some form of continuous professional development. It doesn’t have to be a formal scheme but there is so much out there why wouldn’t you take the opportunity to expand your skills and experience?

We can all get stuck in a rut sometimes, doing the same thing day after day and never stepping outside our comfort zone. That doesn’t feel like much fun. That isn’t making the most of the hours we have in the day. That won’t take us to where we might want to be. It is time to think about where you are and where you might want to be and more importantly to step into the unknown and challenge yourself.

Although this is the last of my blog a day in May it is far from the end of my development, my learning and my writing.

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Stand up and be prepared to share

I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak at a number of conferences and workshops both at home and abroad. It isn’t easy and I do always get nervous before speaking before a group of industry peers. Quite a few years ago I was lucky enough to have the chance of doing a presentation skills workshop with a coach and it taught me some valuable lessons. But above all it made me seek out and take the opportunities that have arisen.

Why am I telling you this? Well, I read this interesting blog from Rachel Miller talking about the lack of women on many communication, IT and social media conference panels. I would recommend reading it as it made me think. (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-women-dont-speak-conferences-rachel-miller)

What I suddenly realised is that being a women working in police communication there have been many, many occasions when I have been the only woman in a meeting let alone the only woman speaking at a conference. For some reason it didn’t register. It could be that I have just got used to it so I don’t even notice the gender imbalance or perhaps I have stopped considering the gender makeup of meetings, workshops or conferences.

It is a tough gig to stand up in front of fellow communication professionals to talk about your experiences, events or a specific piece of work. Few women will aggressively put themselves forward claiming that they have all the answers. But for me talking at a conference should not be about how great you think you are, it is about sharing an experience with people. This means talking about both the high points and the low points and ensuring it is an accurate and complete story. If you are getting some things right, it means you will be getting some things wrong. We should never be afraid to talk about how the lessons we learn along the way.

The chance of sharing experiences with fellow professionals has helped me to consider new ideas, look at new things and try something different. It has expanded my horizon and I am incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity.

From now I think I am going to be more aware of the gender mix of conference speakers and conference panels, and I will definitely encourage more people to take up any speaking opportunities that arise.

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The art of storytelling

I listened to a little bit of the BBC Radio 2 young people’s short story competition winners. It was amazing to know that so many young people would sit down and put their imagination to the test to develop interesting storylines. There were a huge number of entries and it is really heartening in this digital and computer game age to know that children are still writing stories.

Storytelling is part of what makes us human. It is an essential part of society and for any professional communicator it is a key skill. Everything hinges on having a good story and being able to share it with others. There are a number of elements to it including: content, delivery, creativity and construction. All of them need to work together to be really effective.

For internal communicators it is particularly important. Over many years management have just wanted to tell staff things. It hasn’t been about negotiation or discussion it has been about delivering pearls of wisdom and orders to be followed through. Only recently have people realised that to get the most from people you need to be able to have a clear narrative about what the organisation fundamentally stands for. You need to be able to articulate it in a way that is meaningful and easy to understand. That is where storytelling can be so vital.

Why do we lose our ability to develop and tell stories? It is something that we had to do at school but as soon as we grow up it is lost. How many adults will sit and write a story or let their imagination develop an idea? We don’t. But storytelling is going on every day in offices, workplaces and pubs. Wherever people get together they do tell stories. They just don’t see it as that but rather they see it as sharing news and information.

Storytelling should be seen as a skill that is supported and prized in development. It is great that it is being supported by competitions and events like that by BBC Radio 2. Now perhaps we should value the art of storytelling among communicators.

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Another day, another crisis

I felt there was only one subject that I should blog about today and that is the FIFA situation. Of course I am not going to comment on the investigation or what the future may hold. The issue that has caught my attention is once again is handling a crisis and the communication associated with it.

Just a few days after Thomas Cook showed that they were slow in understanding how to deal with a reputation crisis, we now have a similar issue emerging for FIFA. It has made me even more acutely aware of when things are handled well. What makes an effective crisis communication plan can vary depending on the issue in the spotlight and the local or global environment around it. But I do think there are some key elements that you need to actively consider when developing crisis communication.

1. Recognise the problem. Be clear about what is happening and what it means for the organisation. Too many people try to take the sting out of a situation when they are briefing senior managers. This is doomed to fail. Be brave and make them aware of exactly what is being said and what the mood is, and what the problem means for the reputation. Being a communication professional was never about making friends it is about being effective.

2. Know the public mood. This is essential for communicators and using social media can be a useful part of a wider information gathering plan. If you have frontline staff gauge their views from what customers or members of the public have been saying. You can only develop an effective plan if you have an understanding of the current mood.

3. Be honest. If you know something is definitely the case then admit it. Be clear about what you can say and what you know to be true. Obviously if there is an investigation there will need to be some things that you can’t discuss but there are many, many things that you can. If you are trying to hide or ‘cover up’ you will be found out and the situation will be many times worse. With the growth of social media comes the power in the hands of citizens and employees who will know if you are being less than honest.

4. Say sorry. This is one that legal people will disagree with. The communicator sometimes will have to challenge the legal advisers and explain the impact on reputation of failing to say sorry when it should happen. I feel that Thomas Cook failed many times to be sorry for the events that happened. In saying sorry it doesn’t necessarily become an admission of guilt it is merely recognising the situation that exists.

5. Prepare for today and tomorrow. A crisis will change and develop over time. There is the initial incident, the aftermath and then at some point will come the recovery or return to normality. Communicators have to remain continually on the ball with the issue. When everyone else in the organisation may be starting to move on you need to still read the temperature of the public mood and ensure people don’t rush ahead further damaging reputation.

As I watched the news headlines today it was a case of another day, another crisis. Let us all remember that these issues, incidents and events can appear any second or any minute of any day.

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