An age of innocence

When we are young we spend all our time trying to be more grown up. We want to be able to do things like driving, being legally able to drink and to leave our childhood behind. The grass always looked greener for those that were older. It struck me today that things change and I am not quite sure when it happened.

Now, I spend time trying to reconnect with the innocence of my childhood when things were a lot simpler. It is made easier when I get to spend time with my nephews and niece who are all under 10 years old. We are able to just play, make things, and find fun in the most basic things. The fun today was using Lego and then going retro with an attempt at domino rally.

It was great fun and I completely lost track of time as I was working out what to do alongside my nine-year-old nephew. As we get older we should attempt to reconnect with that child we were. It may be by doing something that always made us happy, listening to music from our youth, or watching a favourite television programme but it can all help us to step back to a simpler time.

When was the last time you were able to do something that took you back? Have you been able to shake off the adult world even for a few hours? We can do it if we really want to and spending time with nephews, nieces and our children is the best way to start.

How sad will it be if we forget the child that we were as we grow old. We will be stuck in the serious adult world of bills and responsibilities. I will stick to playing when I can for as long as I can.


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What we do

It is always uplifting and enjoyable to hear about the amazing work that is taking place around you. Any communicator will feel the same about how proud they can be of where they work. I had that feeling tonight with the annual awards to recognise fantastic work that takes place.

The levels of bravery, compassion and courage were off the scale and story after story came. They were all worthy of winning an award and it was great that the work could be recognised in some way. I was particularly proud of two members of my staff who were nominated for amazing communication work.

When I speak to PR and communication staff in a whole variety of roles the subject often comes round to how to demonstrate the value of the work, and how to engage senior managers with what the team do. In light of this, it was even more pleasing to see two police communicators among all the amazing stories. Danielle and Ben come from PR and press office respectively. They both put 1oo per cent into everything they do and are passionate about the job. There is an impressive list of work they have done which was what took them to the awards ceremony tonight.

After listening to all the stories the role of communication was put front and centre. In every case there was a press officer, a PR officer or another member of communication staff that was involved. It may have been supporting the investigation, highlighting good work or providing advice but in a whole range of ways we are involved. The comment was that we have a lot of fingers in lots of pies. That is exactly what communication has to be. It has to be about understanding all aspects of the business and being able to provide support in a variety of ways.

I was really proud of the team who made the award ceremony happen tonight from the awards team, to the digital support, and the photographic support. All came together and made it a wonderful experience for all those taking part. We are communicators and this is what we do.


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Use it and move on

I am still surprised with organisations that don’t get on board with digital developments and social media. After more than five years it has become just part of daily life and yet some businesses are still trying to find out where it fits for them. Have they missed the boat? Are they going to have to invest heavily to reach where everyone else has already got to?

Social media and the digital developments are now just another channel of communication. They have given new opportunities and new ways of working but some of the novelty factor is starting to wear off. I continually talk about the need to move away from talking about channels and instead start to discuss content.

In a room full of communicators today I asked how many used social media at work and around half put their hands up. This is frustrating for me. Everyone in the room should have had their hand up as we must all understand and work with social media if we are to be effective communicators. All PR officers and communicators need to understand all aspects of the work and to not use social media is the same as switching off when the news comes on television.

An important factor for all organisations is to have the support of senior managers and the CEO. If communicators are able to influence upwards then they will be able to develop into new areas. Without this support making any significant move into using the available technology is going to fail. Everybody is aware that social media comes with risks but there are more benefits for those that embrace what is available.

When I spoke today to the communicators I realised that social media and using digital technology is now just daily life. It is the same as writing copy, producing a campaign, speaking to a journalist or designing an event. This is just a part of modern life, so perhaps everyone needs to just deal with it and move on.


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Just when I needed it most

As I was walking out of the house this morning I turned to pick up a bag and felt my back muscles go into spasm. It was very uncomfortable and has been lurking and threatening to go for the past few days. It reminded me how easy it is to neglect ourselves when we are rushing around with work, family, commitments and the general day-to-day demands of modern life.

Luckily, about a week or so ago I had arranged to have a massage and the appointment had come round; it was tonight. I have found an amazing woman who has a magic touch, and around a year ago I promised myself that I would have a regular massage as a treat. It is really more than a treat because I benefit massively from treatment.

I had a session booked just when I needed it most which doesn’t often happen. By the end of the treatment I felt so much better and I could stand up straight for the first time since the early hours of this morning. We all need these little moments devoted to maintaining ourselves and keeping on top of the stresses of daily life.

At work today there was a session on resilience and colleagues from around the country came to take part. It is a reminder of how important looking after ourselves, our work colleagues, our families, friends and others actually is. With so much rushing it is easy to neglect the little things that can have a big impact. Lots of people will raise an eyebrow about resilience training but it is something I think should be considered from our teenage years onwards.

The more we learn about ourselves and how to keep fit and healthy both physically and mentally the happier we will be. It brings the control back to us, which is where it always has been. I am hugely grateful to all the people who help me achieve this.

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A PR disaster or operational crisis?

I was listening to a news report this morning that was talking about the problems that Samsung are having with the Galaxy Note 7. Towards the end of the article the reporter uttered the immortal phrase ‘this is a PR disaster for Samsung’. It is a phrase used a lot to describe something that has gone wrong for a business or organisation. But is it accurate?

In the case of Samsung while the fact that the phone has a problem and then gets recalled and then the new version has a problem clearly is going to affect the reputation. It has already affected the share price during the day. But I don’t think this is the biggest failure or disaster for the company. The real issue is that it is a business disaster that has happened. This is a product failure and for me that has to be the biggest issue.

Reporters love to claim something is a PR disaster but with the latest one I believe they have inaccurately labelled it. If this was a PR disaster there would have been no problem with the phone but this would have failed to be communicated to the buying public.

As communicators there is a positive element to the highlighting of an issue being a PR disaster. Firstly, it is recognition that the reputation of an organisation or business is one of the most important things. They can survive or disappear depending on how the reputation is handled. Secondly, it means when there is a problem or something goes wrong communication and PR has to be at the forefront. Finally, it is a way that PR gets highlighted on the national and international media.

Samsung are just the latest company having operational problems. The way out of it will be to sort the technical issues and provide a reliable product. Decisive action is always an essential to recovery. If that is in place then the PR activity can swing into action and start to rebuild the reputation.

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Success or failure?

Everyone wants to be a winner. We all want to achieve success in what we do and to be making a real difference by the activity. As professional communicators this desire to be right all the time, and to take the right path with every piece of work, is even more pronounced. After all who wants to say that they failed?

I took part in an interesting Twitterchat #Commschat tonight about this very subject – daring to fail. The chat was busy as clearly this is a subject that affects a lot of people. How do we admit that something didn’t work? Will it undermine our reputation? Will the bosses allow us to take risks if we are seen to have failed? Does failure leave us vulnerable? We all have responsibilities, mortgages, bills to pay and having a job may be dependent on bringing results.

Failure is an essential part of life. Without things not quite working we will never improve and develop and ultimately move forward. Innovation can only happen with ideas and lots of them, some will work, some will fail and some may need to be refined. Of course, if we are continually failing then we may need to reassess what we are doing, and perhaps it isn’t the right job to be in.

We need to build an environment around us that allows us to take some risks and try something new, but to have an eye on risk management the whole time. There needs to be a value placed on having ideas, and we have to build the trust of bosses and the CEO so they can see what we are trying to do. I always have a 90/10 rule, where 90 per cent of things are fine and 10 per cent have a problem. Within that 10 per cent provided it is genuine then we can learn and move on. Those at the top have to be brave with this as do communicators.

The end result of trying new things and taking some risks is the chance to move forward in huge strides rather than baby steps. It could mean moving ahead of the opposition, significantly improving the service or increasing sales. The benefits are there and within our grasp if we are prepared to have ideas, do something new and sometimes accept failure.


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Care and attention

We all need to be grounded in the practical issues of daily life. There are bills to pay, houses to clean and keep repaired, and work to do. It is easy with all this to neglect our spiritual side and also to take time to look after ourselves and particularly our mental wellbeing. Tomorrow is world mental health day and it is something that a lot of people will feel uncomfortable talking about.

We are starting to be much more comfortable in discussing physical health and conditions that we face. Well, quite a lot of us are although I know many men need to get more accepting of this. But when it comes to mental health and any issues we will avoid discussing it. It is one of the few remaining taboos in modern life.

The focus for many of us is on rushing to the gym after work, going for a run or having a swim. Our physical health is at the forefront of our thoughts. Unfortunately, there are few people who will put the same priority on their mental wellbeing. The mind still needs the same kind of attention as our body and on a daily basis. Without it problems lurk and will emerge and if we are unlucky they will floor us for some time.

For me one of the ways of keeping in check is to prioritise those tasks that improve my mental health, wellbeing and resilience. Today I was able to spend some quality time with horses which is such a great way to unwind and relax. Equine therapy is now recognised as a way to help people with stress as well as those with a range of medical conditions.

We all need to find those things that help our mental wellbeing. It doesn’t matter what they are as long as we ensure that we prioritise it and avoid just focusing on our physical health. I hope that through World Mental Health Day tomorrow we all think a bit more about this part of our lives.

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