The importance of trust

I woke this morning to a news story about Age UK and while I don’t know enough about that issue to discuss it there were some significant things it highlighted. The crux of the matter was about a loss of trust and an impact on public confidence. These are issues that I have to face on a daily basis in my communication work so this was an interesting matter to consider.

There are many organisations or companies that are lucky enough to have a considerable amount of trust from people. Many charities have this position because we believe they have some honesty around their purpose, what they want to achieve and how they will work with people. We also expect that people in public services and positions of authority will have a level of honesty. Well, perhaps we think this a little less in the modern era than our ancestors did.

When something happens that impacts on our perception of the selfless nature of organisations it can damage confidence as well as reputation. Whether the information is accurate or not it will make people question the motives behind what is taking place. People may think twice before financially supporting charities or in the case of public services they will avoid working with them.

For anyone working in police communication this is a huge issue. The police have a difficult role as they have to enforce legislation, arrest people and investigate crime. All these things are made so much easier when they have the help and support of local people. When people are confident in policing and will come forward with information and assistance so much more can be achieved.

But how much do organisations, charities or businesses value trust and confidence in them? How many have response and communication plans to deal with events that may impact on reputation? And how many have trust, confidence and reputation on their corporate risk register?

I am sure the answer is not many. It is the role of professional communicators to highlight the issues around trust and confidence. They need to explain what the aftermath of an incident is likely to be but also provide examples of what the organisation needs to do to maintain trust. Above all we need to look at the events that occur affecting other groups and learn from them. But also we should never underestimate the value of trust in an organisation.

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Look up and beyond

When we are busy it is easy to get focused on the task in hand and getting to the desired outcome. It is something I know I do on a regular basis. I have a job to deal with and I can get my head down and work through to a conclusion. I may remember to share some of the details with others in the team but often I get so caught up in my own world I just plough on until completion.

This is clearly not the best way of working. I don’t have all the answers and I don’t even have all the questions. We always get more from what we are doing if we involve others in the discussion and development. But that takes time and in these busy days we may question whether it is time we can afford.

Today I spent a lot of time talking to other people about the work I was involved with. It did mean I had invested time in chatting things through, considering actions, looking at new developments and creating further actions to undertake. It took me away from the activity and delivery which was a luxury, or so I thought. I am sure, however, that we are going to get a better result by involving others.

As communication professionals we can become quite insular, particularly if we are working in-house. Keeping up-to-date with professional developments is a huge challenge with a full-time day job that for most is increasingly demanding. More than that though we can become insular in our own roles. How often do you step outside of your team to share something with the rest of the organisation or with another organisation?

Internal communicators are much better at sharing and involving others and when they do, they get results. For those more focused on external communication it is too easy to deal with the task without considering others. We need to make sure this doesn’t continue to happen.

The saying two heads are better than one is right. We need to afford ourselves the time to involve others, work together and achieve better results.

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What are you saying?

How often do we check that what we think we said was actually what the other person heard? I imagine for most people the answer would be we don’t, we just assume that they have understood what we were saying. It is an absolute sin for communication professionals not to put in place checks to ensure that the messages being sent were the same ones that were heard.

I have been as guilty as most people for not checking that what I am saying is clearly understood. That is when we make assumptions that people know what we were talking about and if they need to take action they will. We all know the story about the army sending messages ending with ‘send three and four pence we are going to a dance’!

It isn’t just when we are actioning work or developing a communication campaign that thinking through our communication is important. We should be thinking about it on a daily basis. When we draft the email we should be reading for a second time before hitting send. Then we should be ensuring a follow up to clarify the message was understood. Often the message is sent with us only focused on what we want to achieve, and not considering the recipient. We need to put ourselves in their shoes, and make that a regular part of our thought process.

When we have face-to-face communication the situation is less complicated and that is because we can ask questions to check the message was clear, and there is also a huge amount that is being said within the body language. Sometimes too much may be said through the body language!

We are all getting busier and busier and trying to do more and more during our working day that actually, thinking about what we do, the words we use, how we communicate, and what we say is not on our minds. It needs to be. Tomorrow I will be checking what I say and how it is heard.



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Coercion or confidence

I was wondering today whether you can develop effective communication and engagement if you are in an agency responsible for enforcement? It followed an online discussion about the issue at the conference run by the Society of Evidence Based Policing.

The issue being considered was whether law enforcement activity fundamentally struggled because it was about coercion which could then undermine public confidence. I have to say this seems an odd position to take. Of course, the fact that people could face arrest, charge, conviction and prison when they meet the police is important. That said if you have done nothing wrong then why would you be concerned? 

Every organisation will face a time when they have to be both tough but also communicate and develop engagement on other matters. The conflict may be when something has gone wrong, or when they have to challenge things in a public way. There has to be a strong message but it doesn’t mean this should create a barrier. All these things can be achieved without sacrificing anything. The key has to be having a creative and focused approach to communication. 

There are times when the messaging has to be tough and there are times when it can have a soft edge. This is the way in the modern world. Having a brand and identity does not mean that you are rigidly stuck in being that same thing all the time. People will accept that organisations have different things to say and to deal with, and we should credit them with the ability to understand and deal with this.

It is up to companies and organisations to prioritise effective communication and engagement as a means by which to have a more reasoned discussion about the strong arm elements and also those softer things. Putting appropriate specialists with skills and experience in place should be part of the core of agencies if they really want to avoid any conflicting message, branding or imagery.

The police service does face a unique challenge where it must be part of the community but also hold people to account for criminal or antisocial activity. I know this creates challenges but it also provides opportunities to develop communication that can increase community confidence rather than damage it. At the heart is investing in the right communication support to mitigate any risks.

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How friendships are forged

A good friend of mine got me thinking yesterday about what makes friendship and how we make those connections with other people. For many of us there are lots of acquaintances we have or people we know but only a few do we really class as friends. Even with the growth of social media and the many hundreds of additional connections we make there are still only a small group of people that reach that elevated position of being friends.

The friend that started these musings is someone I worked with briefly many years ago and have kept in touch with. Her view was that friendships that are forged under fire are the ones that last the longest. It is a good point and made me reflect.

Working in policing means there are many difficult and challenging times, and you share them with a small group of colleagues. It is these times that may mean working very long hours, dealing with upsetting events, and to do your work despite all the problems. Many of my closest friends come from those who I have shared some of the most difficult experiences in the office.

Some of this may also be the reason why I often refer to the team at work as my dysfunctional family. It feels as though they have become even stronger friends and are almost family. We look out for each other, help each other, celebrate with each other and try to have some laughs along the way. We have faced ups and downs at work and also in our personal lives, but we share the experiences and it brings us even closer together.

I think some of this is much more evident when working in the emergency services environment. It is probably because you have to trust people really quickly and build a strong bond to make sure you can get through the day. However, there are a few former work colleagues from before I joined policing that have become friends.

The key to strong friendship is that you have been together when things were bad as well as good, and have been through the ups and downs. Life is a rollercoaster and to get through it we need support when things are not good but also people alongside us to enjoy the good times.

So Anne, you are right. The friendships that last are often those borne from significant challenges. I have to say thank you to all those people I have shared both good and bad times; I am privileged to call you my friends.

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Eureka – I found it

We can sit and think and worry and try to come up with the perfect solution to the problem we are confronted with. It can take days, weeks or even months to think things through. The information can be laid out in front of us and we still can’t find the way forward. 

Today I have had one of those eureka moments. They are amazing things to experience and if you haven’t had one you really need to. Eureka moments are when suddenly you find the solution, that answer that has been eluding you. 

I have been working for a few weeks on something, a substantial project that is requiring new ideas and very careful planning. Without boring you with the details it has been on my mind for a while and the fact that I couldn’t see the wood for the trees was becoming quite stressful. I wanted to find the perfect solution but in wanting that I was making it hard to find any solution. 

Then when I woke this morning and starting getting ready to face the day my mind threw up the answer. It was like a bolt out of the blue. Suddenly in my head was the solution and what I needed to do was clear. The mind is an amazingly powerful thing. I hadn’t been thinking about it for a couple of days and yet in my head my brain was still mulling it over. The cogs were obviously working behind the scenes to help me work things out. 

So what gets in the way of us having a eureka moment? Often we rush to find a solution, the first answer and try to make it work even if it isn’t the best way forward. Or we try to force things and end up pushing ourselves into dead ends, whilst also getting increasingly stressed. If you know that feeling when you are trying to sleep and can’t and you find yourself getting more and more frustrated, well that is what we do. It is what I have been doing. 

We need to give ourselves some time and space to allow the mind to do its stuff. The key for me is to cut myself some slack and be confident that the solution will make itself known when the time is right. 

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Six elements of resilience

I have talked about one subject a number of times this week, and it is something that I think is underrated. In a fast moving world where things keep changing there is a huge amount of pressure. If we are going to survive and even thrive then we have to find ways of increasing our resilience.

It has been a tough week at work, and it comes after a few really difficult weeks. I have found my personal resilience being put to the test but increasing resilience isn’t just down to some inner strength. I have been pondering what you need to have more resilience to be able to meet the challenges, changes and developments each day. The following are six things I think are essential to boost resilience:

  1. A strong support network including both family and friends
  2. Support from the team around you at work
  3. A clear role and purpose to the work you are doing
  4. Honest and useful feedback about what you are doing
  5. Time to recover and spend time doing something that makes you smile
  6. The ability to step back and took a detached look at things

Of course, there has to be some inner confidence, strength and a way of seeing the positives around you to help with this.

This week I have found myself being pushed and pressured in a number of ways. I can’t say it was any more than usual, but it felt like it was. I have reached Friday, and I have survived. If I take a look back it was the six elements I have highlighted that ensured I was able to gather my inner strength and emerge relatively unscathed.

It is easy to see resilience as toughness and therefore something that is about hiding emotions and never showing any weakness. For me, that is absolutely not what resilience is and being able to confront and deal with your emotions is a critical element.

With the massive changes that are taking place in most workplaces due to the financial climate and modern developments, we have to start to focus on making sure people have resilience. It is about techniques and support that will mean the constant change, pressure, and speed of modern life doesn’t adversely impact on you. Training in this area is something I think more employers should consider, and for communication teams it is essential.

For me as I sit here today, I am just incredibly grateful for my support network those at home, at the stables and at work. They have all played a part in increasing my resilience during recent weeks.

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