2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,000 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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The search for happiness

An interesting article on some of the news bulletins this morning (Tuesday 30 December 2014) was the latest survey on how happy people were with their lives. People living in Fiji were the happiest and those in Iraq were the most unhappy. Details were taken from the End of Year Survey by WIN/Gallup International. So where did the UK sit?

It is difficult to find specific details but it appeared to be in the 50s of the 65 countries that were surveyed. Is that surprising? I don’t think so. We have been through a festive period that feels like it has been more focused on consumerism than ever before. It is all about having things to make you happy. If you buy this item you will have a better life, if you buy this food it will make you happier, if you go on this holiday it will make you smile – all things we are being bombarded with through advertising.

If you are to believe what you are having thrown at you it is things, products and services that will make you happy. Clearly this isn’t the case. If you listen to the stories from many of the lottery winners having things, money etc doesn’t make you happy.

I have been thinking a lot about happiness and how to achieve it this year. My conclusion is quite simple, happiness is something inside you. We all have the ability to be happy but we have to recognise it and reassess our priorities and what matters to us. A smile from a friend, a chat to your mum and feeling as though you have made a difference to someone or something cost nothing and can all make you happy.

I am taking part in The Guardian Happy for Life project which is an interesting way to gauge what makes you happier. It is well worth a look or considering downloading the app to take part http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/series/happy-for-life . As 2015 approaches I will continue the quest to understand happiness, my own and others and how I can have more in my life.

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Reflecting on my predictions for 2014

Almost a year ago I posted eight predictions for communication in 2014 and now as we near the end of the year I thought it was worth reflecting on whether they were accurate or not. It was 1 January 2014 when I considered the environment and then made my suggestions. So let’s have a look at where we have come.

1. Content not channels – I predicted that the talk would move away from focusing on channels such as Facebook and Twitter and instead would consider content as the priority. This is something that I think has happened to some extent. Some groups will still focus on one network but the more advanced communicators are now talking about how to make great content and then tailor it to specific networks.

2. Smaller teams – this was an inevitability for me as I work in the public sector. There has been some small reduction in the resources and staff available to support communication activity. I can see this increasing in 2015 given the recent public sector budget settlement announcement. There does seem to be slight improvement in the job market but the roles are developing to be multi-skilled communicators rather than specialists.

3. Expectations will increase – this was another one that had an inevitability to it. But I don’t think I knew how much expectations would increase at a time of reducing budgets. The public and media have little tolerance for the discussion about prioritisation or funding being the reason their expectations are not being met. People are demanding to do business in the ways that suit them and if organisations are not set up to deal with them they have little patience. I feel 2014 was the year where patience seemed to be in short supply, unless it appeared that way because of the media approach to stories.

4. Breaking down boundaries – I predicted that communicators would be able to take a step into a more fundamental role in organisations being able to effect change and culture. I see this as an opportunity that still exists but many are reluctant or unable to take it up. Some of the problems can be the daily grind of work and limited resources but also for many there is a concern about stepping into this broader role.

5. Wearable technology – I said that if the real benefits could be demonstrated and they became more stylish then wearable technology would take off. It may not still be commonplace but it definitely has become more accepted. More people have watches that link to their phone and we are waiting for the Apple version out in Spring 2015. There has been a huge growth in the use of body worn video by police, and individuals are using cameras on bicycles and uploading examples of dangerous drivers to YouTube on a daily basis. It is here and we can expect more.

6. Social integration – it was a phrase I enjoyed which basically meant that social would become more than engagement and needed to be brought into other organisational systems. This is definitely here with most communicators working with customer service staff, operational staff, call centres to be able to provide a more rounded social media offering to customers.

7. Google+ – I thought that we could see a growth in popularity of Google+ and while there has been some increase in use it is still unfortunately waiting in the wings. The functionality is good, very good and so I still feel if the network is continuously developed then it will find its place. The use of hangouts by many people and groups, including for courses through Coursera and others, has brought Google+ into people’s sights.

8. Privacy issues – the debate has continued with concern about data breaches and the amount of information that is gathered and retained without people’s knowledge or understanding. But despite this the use of social media continues to increase and the use of security settings is not really understood. The outrage about use of data gathered is quickly forgotten as people accept the risks for the benefits the use of networks brings.

So much for 2014. The predictions seemed to have some relevance in many areas. In the next couple of days I will turn my attention to 2015 and a few more predictions for the 12 months ahead.

Happy New Year and if you have some suggestions for 2015 predictions let me know.

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Remember others at Christmas

It is Christmas Eve and while many people are now on holiday there are still many more who will be working throughout the festive season. With all the rushing, present wrapping and food preparation it is easy to get caught up in your own world. It is only when something happens that it brings home how many people will be working throughout the Christmas time.

This spirit of Christmas is about thinking of others, giving them presents, sending them cards and spending time with loved ones. It should be an opportunity to remember others. It is a time to reflect on what other people have done to help us throughout the year.

The tragic events around the world are brought into sharp focus when everyone is focused on having fun and enjoying themselves. We feel sympathy for the families, friends and relatives of those affected. But often we forget about all the emergency services and others who will be on duty and dealing with these incidents.

When I first started working with the emergency services more than a decade ago I hadn’t really appreciated the level of work, the courage and the commitment that goes on around the country by all the emergency services. It is so easy to take it for granted that when we phone for help people are always going to be on the other end of the line.

So, spare a thought for those working during the festive period, and not just in the emergency services but in all jobs. Take a moment to remember others this Christmas.

Finally, thank you for taking the time to read this blog during the year and I wish everyone a merry and peaceful Christmas.


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Is it ho, ho, hopeless?

It is the time of year when we are getting even more messages thrown at us. We are told we must buy more things, must have the best Christmas ever, must have a table groaning under the weight of a months food. Within that it is a challenge to get any serious messages heard.

In the past few weeks many public sector agencies and charities have been desperately trying to find ways of sharing important information. I wonder how many have been remembered. Can you think of any health, law enforcement or charity messages you heard recently and have remained with you?

If you do then great but I wondered whether sharing serious messages should be abandoned at this time of year. Perhaps we just minimise the time and effort used if messages are going to get lost in the festive rush.

I have pondered this but believe it is even more important to try and get these messages out during the Christmas period. There are increased risks from the activities shopping, eating, drinking and many other things. It is easy to get caught up with the activities and forget simple advice. So it is vital that we redouble our efforts.

For charities it is a time when they should be reclaiming the spirit of Christmas. With continued austerity there is an opportunity to encourage people to focus on those who are vulnerable and in need. In 2014 there has been a lot of materialism with Black Friday and the attempt to make today Panic Saturday. I hope we can be more positive in what Christmas 2015 means.

One final thing, please listen to the messages that are designed to help you stay safe, health and happy throughout the festive season.

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Social media for any age

Recently I had the pleasure of running a workshop for some community groups. The aim of the event was to help them to understand how social media, and in particular Twitter, could be used to support their work. I had prepared what I wanted to cover to give them the background about how Twitter developed, how it works and what they may be able to use it for. As always, I made sure that I covered the risks and issues that had to be considered as well as the positive benefits from using social networking.

What was surprising for me was that the group I was speaking to were all retired and older people who were involved in a number of community groups. They ranged from people who were already using social media through to at least one who didn’t want to use it and believed people should communicate face-to-face.

They all shared one thing though and that was an interest in understanding how Twitter could introduce new people to the work the community groups did and more importantly encourage a new generation to get involved. I am a huge advocate for using social media and can see significant benefits for many voluntary and charity groups who can gain support, followers, and hopefully develop more volunteers.

I spent quite a while explaining how modern life has made it extremely challenging for people to connect on a real basis. Most people work late, will potentially face a long commute and when they get home are unlikely to want to turn around and go out to a community meeting. But they may feel able to get a cup of tea, turn on the laptop and log into a virtual community which will connect them to events and items of interest in their local neighbourhood. This is just a fact of modern life. I hope that more community groups will take the opportunity from Twitter, Facebook and other networks and start to improve their links to younger generations.

At the end of the short training session they may not have all wanted to go out and start using Twitter but one thing they shared was an understanding of the benefits and opportunities that the social network brought. I just hope that a few of them find a way to make social networking work for them regardless of their age.

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Shocking, dramatic – and it was only Monday morning

I never knew one of my Auntie’s. My mum’s eldest sister was killed by a drunk driver more than 50 years ago. She was only 21 and I never had the opportunity to get to know her. As a child I didn’t know much about this but as I got older I understood what had happened and the affect it had on the whole of the family.

When I had the chance to go and see the ‘Safe Drive, Stay Alive’ event in Middleton today it had added poignancy for me. As I listened to the real life personal stories of people who had their lives dramatically affected by dangerous driving. I had an open mind about the event and wondered whether the young people would listen to the emergency services and victims talking about their stories. But they did, they were increasingly quiet and many became emotional.

The event is quite unusual. It is open to schools and colleges and is a huge investment of time from emergency services, the NHS and schools. These kind of presentations were quite common when I was younger. I vividly remember the fire officers coming to primary school and telling us about the dangers of fireworks. It is more than 30 years ago but because of the shocking nature of it I can still see it as clearly today.

Today’s event was similarly shocking with police, fire, ambulance and the accident and emergency doctor all giving people an insight into what they have to deal with when faced with road traffic accidents. However, it was the heartbreaking story told by the father whose son had died in an accident on the roads that was the most emotional. It was raw personal emotions that came through in every word that he spoke.

I can only hope that the young people at the event may remember it for years to come in the way I still remember the dangers of fireworks and fire. For me personally, it brought home to me the trauma that my family had experienced all those years ago. But I will always remember the Auntie I never had a chance to know.

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