Heading back to 2001

This week I have something to celebrate. I have been working for Greater Manchester Police communication team for 15 years. As a mini-celebration of this quite significant achievement I am going to dedicate this week of blogs to looking at the past 15 years and what it has brought. But first things first, let’s go back to 2001 and try to remember what the world was like.

In August 2001 few people had heard of Al-Qaeda and the disaster of 9/11 was a few weeks away. I remember it really clearly and it changed the way I viewed life and how I worked but more of that during the week. Back in 2001 the iPod was launched by Steve Jobs and Wikipedia came into existence.

I checked out other key events in 2001 and courtesy of Buzzfeed found out that George Harrison died, Joey Ramone died, Bridget Jones hit the movie screens and Russel Crowe won an Oscar for Gladiator.

The cost of a litre of petrol in 2001 was around 77p and the cost of a wholemeal loaf of bread had risen to around 54p. The Prime Minister in 2001 was Tony Blair who was four years into his 10 years in Number 10. In America George W. Bush had just become the 43rd President.

Back in 2001 I was just turning 30 and I was still totally focused on working my way up to becoming the head of a communication department. Social media didn’t exist and the whole focus was on media relations. Internal communication was focused on giving orders and there were no staff dedicated to this role which is now seen as vital. One of the first things I was involved in was the appointment of the first dedicated Web Manager.

When I joined GMP my longest job had been for three years and generally after about two years I was looking to move on. I don’t think I ever expected that 15 years on I would still be within GMP and in charge of the communication team.

Tomorrow I will try to remember the first day and the early years.


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Marathon effort

This really is going to be my last Olympic inspired blog. I was doing jobs around the house this afternoon and put the TV on to see what sport was underway. It was the marathon which has to be one of the most testing and arduous sports.

They set off to cover many miles without being sure what they will face both from the weather and the terrain. They prepare and train but can only know how their bodies will react when they start the race. It is very unpredictable in many ways.

At the heart of the race is a determination to stay the course, to overcome the physical pain and to meet the challenge. It could help us all to take some of those lessons into our own lives. We can often feel like we are running a marathon and are struggling to see the end in sight. We set out with a hope that we are aware of what lies ahead. We have the right equipment to assist us and we know there are others in the same race. But it is our own race that we must focus on.

Sometimes our lives can feel a bit of an uphill struggle, with few breaks to allow us to recover. We just have to keep going with the knowledge we will reach our goal. 

The sense of achievement when we reach the finish line is immense. We have had confirmation of our strength and determination. At the end is the reward we have been looking for and not just that but the knowledge that we have battled through to reach it. 

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Gold rush to Manchester

We have been captivated by the two weeks of sporting achievement that we have seen in Rio. It has been a chance to see people overcome adversity to win medals and reach the heights.

It has given us all an opportunity to escape from the challenges of daily life. Being able to share in the joy of those medal winners can bring a smile to the face and cheer us up.

We now have a chance to prolong that feel good factor with a parade of Olympians in Manchester in the coming weeks. It is fantastic news and as someone worked out Manchester on its own would be fourth in the medal table it is well deserved. 

Such events give us the chance to recognise those achievements and show our gratitude to those who represent the country. I am really looking forward to it taking place.

For communicators around Manchester it will be a busy time with lots of extra work required but I am actually relishing the chance to get involved. We have a chance to show the best of Manchester and do it in some style. After all we know the cameras and worlds media will be watching.

I am still excited about the parade that lies ahead and this is 24 hours on from the announcement. It is our chance to make a big impact and above all to hopefully inspire the next generation of athletes and Olympians. Now let’s get planning for a huge party.

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Open your eyes

It is very easy for us to get caught up in our own lives, world and activities. These things are the most important to us and so we think about them a lot. I don’t see this as selfish just that we know we can impact most on our own lives.

But this can cause problems. If we don’t keep a balance both in focusing internally and externally the impact is significant. When we greet people and ask them how they are do we really want to know and are we prepared for an honest answer?

Often we are so busy with our own priorities that we don’t see people maybe struggling or in pain around us. They may just need a kind word or someone to lean on or they may need someone to point them towards expert help.

For anyone working in communication all this is essential. A strategic communicator sees a lot of things. They see into all aspects of the business in a way that no one else can. It is the communicators who work to deal with problems, promote the positive and step into all aspects. A wise chief executive or business leader will recognise this and harness the information.

We have to open our eyes to really be able to see what is around us. We have to do this at home, work, in communities and throughout our lives.

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Taking the essentials for granted

There are many things that we take for granted and don’t even notice anymore. In the UK and the developed world we are lucky to not have to think about some of the basic elements to life. When was the last time you thought about the joy of having hot running water available whenever you want or need it? Do you recognise how lucky you are to have food in the cupboard or fridge?

We have had a boiler problem for the last two days and are waiting for it to be fixed. It has meant relying on my lovely mum and dad to let me get showered in the morning. Suddenly having hot running water has become a luxury and without it my life is changing. I have extra things to worry about and consider, but for me (hopefully) this is only going to be a short term problem.

For many living without hot running water, or even any running water, and shelter from the elements, and food is the reality of daily life. I have been shocked and upset by the reports from Aleppo about the horrors of life and how much people have come to accept living without.

We have so much to be grateful for. We have so much to stop and actually recognise. Just think about things tomorrow morning from the time you get up and step out of bed. How lucky are we to have a warm cosy bed to step out of. How lucky are we to be able to wash with hot running water. How lucky are we to be able to flick a switch and put the kettle on. How lucky are we to have food and drink available whenever we want them. How lucky are we to be able to step out of the house and get into a car. How lucky are we to go to work.

The answer is very lucky. The past couple of days have been a reminder of what I take for granted but should be grateful for on a daily basis. Perhaps we should all take some time to recognise the little things to us that we have that are big things to many.

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Personal resilience in a challenging world

If you have read any of my blogs you will know that the importance of resilience and finding ways to survive the challenges of modern life are things that are very important to me. As I have grown older they have become more and more important. 2016 is proving to be a tough year and one that is putting me to the test on a regular basis so now is the time I have to put into practice the tips and techniques that I have been learning.

Every day we are facing those bills that arrive unexpectedly, sudden events that rock our world and the daily pressure from uncertainty in the workplace. It is a heady mix and one that is going to challenge us.

I have agreed to take part in a CIPR North West event on 15 September talking about developing personal and professional resilience. Believe me this isn’t because I have all the answers, I definitely don’t. But I do want to help people start to have discussions about the pressures that communicators face and to start to feel able to look for help when they need it. In fact, they need to look for help before they need it.

Personal resilience has been one of the most important issues for communicators in a whole range of sectors. Of course, it is an issue for a wide range of industries not just communication. So what can we do about it?

For me the key is to know yourself so that you can see those signs of stress early and be able to stop the slide towards negativity and at its worse depression. After that is the need to have tools that can benefit your mental state. There are so many ways to approach this but finding one that works for you is the key. Two other important aspects are to confront the problems you have rather than try to ignore them – they won’t go away, and make sure you don’t try to deal with things alone as a strong support network around you is essential.

If you are interested in finding out more about the event and to get involved in the discussion you can find details here https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/influence-for-impact-resilience-tickets-26303901678

What are your key tips in building personal and professional resilience?

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Expect the unexpected

Life is full of the unpredictable. We never really know what is around the corner and that is a challenge we live with. As communicators, we know that curve balls and the unexpected appear regularly and that is part of the joy of the job.

Getting ahead of things when we can is really important. If we are providing communication and public relations support to an organisation or business we have to do it with the fullest knowledge possible.

I find myself musing again about how poor many PR people are in promoting themselves and what they do within those organisations. We focus externally on delivering results for the company and  any promotion of communication is at the bottom of the to-do list.

If people within organisations are aware of the skills and knowledge within PR and comms teams, and know what they do then they are more likely to come forward for help or to provide information. This will put us in the enviable position of having early warning of issues and developments.

Being aware is the starting point for proactively and dealing effectively with incidents and events. With it we can be better communicators and without it we have to battle to make progress. Time to prepare to PR the PR team.

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