Watching the clock

I have done a lot of travelling this week which means thinking time mainly on one of many long train journeys. It has been an opportunity to reflect on a few things including where I am in life. I am not going to get all philosophical about things that is for another time. 

After a challenging six weeks I have lost count of the times I have talked about how amazing my colleagues are and how we have all needed to pull together to do our best as a whole team. They are a simply awesome team and I am honoured to be working alongside them.

On a few occasions recently I have been asked why I am still involved in police communications after 18 years, why I have remained at the same organisation for 16 years and why in the same role for nine years. Does it mean I have lost my edge or am less ambitious? Does it mean I am stagnating?

The answer is simple: I am still in this role because I love my job. It has enough variety, challenge and ongoing change to make every day different. I have a chance to make a real difference to people’s lives if I am doing the best I can and am effectively leading the team. I have been able to develop a level of expertise that is vital for communication. I still am nowhere near feeling stagnant as the world around me evolves and there a new challenges every day.

On a personal level I still want to conquer the world in the same way I did almost 30 years ago. My drive and commitment to improving communication and supporting the next generation to come through into the profession is if anything stronger. My ambition to be the best I can be has never gone away.  It is an inner drive that doesn’t come from wanting more money or having an impressive job title but to continuing my professional development. 

I see the world as a whole range of opportunities to get involved in and when I do it I do it with a genuine passion. I stopped listening to external pressures trying to shape my life and decided what I really wanted. I can’t say I am happy every day but on the whole I have so much that makes me happy and that I am grateful for in my life. 

My drive, passion and commitment remains in place and if anything I am more determined to be the best communicator I can be and to lead the most effective team. Time is irrelevant.

Posted in challenge, communication, development, happiness, learning, manchester, media, police, policing, PR, work | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Being more human 

We British are known for our reserved nature and stiff upper lip. Any displays of emotion are to be kept to a minimum. After all we don’t go in for all that over the top gushing in any form. 

I spent my early years feeling that way and when I started work I knew I was expected to behave in a certain way. Back in the 1990s professional meant being cold and impersonal.  I spent a long time perfecting this approach to work and large parts of my private life.

In recent years I think the world has moved on. We are starting to recognise the importance of emotional intelligence and in understanding not just our feelings but those of others around us. In work it is becoming acceptable to be real, authentic and human.

We know that there are times when we have to be unemotional because of the circumstances but that doesn’t have to be all the time. We can be more human. One crucial part of this for me is a small word for a big gesture and that is hugs. 

About three years ago I was going through a difficult time and to help me through it I met a new group of people. They would greet me with hug and leave the encounter the same way. It is something I had previously had reserved only for very close family and often in a crisis situation. I started to see the benefit of the informal and warm greeting.

I have tried to introduce hugs into the workplace without anyone feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed. It needs to be as accepted as shaking hands and if we do it in the right way it can be.

In recent weeks I have been involved in more hugs than ever before. With a stressful situation to deal with, it became the preferred method of greeting. I know there are lots of studies that will tell you why hugs are good both psychologically and physiologically. I can’t tell you about that but I can say it has helped me a lot in the past six weeks. 

It made me feel human and that the people I met cared about how I was feeling. It made me feel I could help others by demonstrating my emotions and in some cases it was a warm and heartfelt thank you. We need to become comfortable with public displays of emotion and see the benefits they can bring us particularly in our troubled times.

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Getting Chartered a year on 

Just over a year I did something scary and challenging. I stepped into the unknown with a clear destination in my mind. In early June 2016 I spent a day attempting to demonstrate I have the skills and knowledge to become a Chartered Public Relations practitioner. 

Why did I do it? Who encouraged me to go for it ? What has it given me?

I decided to attempt to become a Chartered Practitioner because I want communication to be seen as a profession in the same way that people view other Chartered professions. My development and continued knowledge search are important to me. I want to continue to develop so that I can be the best I can be. The world of communication is continually developing and we have to develop as well. For years I have been doing my continuous professional development as I see it as essential so this was the next step.

I had a tremendous amount of support from people who had already been through the process. They gave me support and guidance as well as just encouraging me to keep going. They provided me with valuable advice and helped to calm my nerves. I would never have kept going and put myself into that testing day without that backup.

After a tough day I was successful and was able to say I am a Chartered PR practitioner which is something I am still really proud of. But after the initial delight what had it given me?

It may not have brought me additional money but it has been recognised as a hugely positive step. People understand what chartership is and that makes it easier to explain. Above all it has given me a new confidence in my abilities to undertake the challenging role of the Head of Communication. I have never regretted putting myself under pressure 12 months ago.

Getting Chartered is just another step in my career and development. We need more people to make the commitment to their career and its development. Bosses can start to see the benefit of employing or working with somebody that has invested in their skills and abilities. If you are a communicator and you have a passion for what you do now is the right time to take the step to becoming Chartered. 

Posted in challenge, Chartered Institute of Public Relations, CIPR, communication, crime, digital, PR, work | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Reflecting on six months work

Six months ago I was in a reflective mood at the start of 2017. It is a time when many people are outlining their New Year resolutions and looking at what they can predict for the future. The topic was a subject for tonight’s #Commschat on Twitter which focused on reviewing the first six months of the year.

I thought it may be interesting to look back at what I said on 1 January this year and see how relevant or not it is on 26 June 2017. Also, does it tell me anything that may be useful for the next six months of the year?

In the New Year post titled ‘Achievements not resolutions’ I was focused on what I wanted to do in 2017 and what did I want to reflect on at the end of the year as something completed. I was very focused on continuing to blog and develop my writing which came on the back of completing my blog a day challenge during 2016. It is still something at the forefront of my mind and I have a lot of plans I need to push forward in the next six months.

From a work perspective I wanted to do work to change the perception of public relations and communications so people can see the value of it. I have tried to do this with all the work I have undertaken outside of my day job. But I think it is during the past five weeks when I, and the team, have been put under extreme pressure that we have really shown what communication can do. The work is front and centre of dealing with a crisis and can have a huge positive impact. My recent blogs have been a reflection on the challenges for communication and how we tried to deal with things. Communication is a thread throughout organisations and businesses it goes from the operational to the strategic and should be at all levels in between.

There were a few other priorities for me in 2017 including completing the work I started as Chair of the Association of Police Communicators when I step down in December this year, and valuing and caring for the animals that share my life.

The final thought I had on 1 January was that I wanted “to look back on how I have improved the 12 months both for myself, those around me and those I don’t know around me”. I ended with the words “Let us push on and make the most of every day in the year ahead.” That is absolutely the most important thing that I have had brought home to me by many recent events. I want to leave a positive impact in what I do, show kindness and express my thanks where needed. I hope that the recent weeks have helped me to show kindness to friends and strangers, as well as to value everything I have in my life.

At the end of June I will take a deep breath and push on to try and do more to ensure I can reflect on what has been achieved in 2017.

Posted in #ayearinblogs, challenge, communication, crisis communication, manchester, media, PR, public, work | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Passion, resilience and creativity – this is my home

This is a slightly different blog subject for me but one that I felt I needed to write. Yesterday I was in London and I wondered how it would feel after recent events. After many years I now feel comfortable in the capital city. I have mastered the tube and the pace of life and the intensity. I know lots of people and have many good friends who live it work there. But it could never feel like my home that is Greater Manchester.

Manchester has always been an amazing and magical city. As a young child it was the place we went to as a treat in the run up to Christmas. When I lived in Sheffield for a year my heart lifted as I saw the Manchester skyline on my way home on the train. So what makes it so great?

If you listened to the poem by Tony Walsh you will understand some of the reasons why this is an amazing area. It has an industrial and industrious history that was a tough place. People had tough jobs and had to try and thrive in challenging times. They found ways to escape the poverty, factories and pressures through art and music. Such great people doing great things.

I asked people on Twitter to tell me why they think this is a great place. Overwhelmingly the answer was the people and specifically the resilience, being friendly, supporting others, and the passion. All of which are woven into our history.

Of course the music of the city had to get a mention. After all when I was a teenager Madchester was happening and people wanted to come from all over the country to sample the city’s hospitality and see the latest bands. We have amazing artists that have come from the streets of Greater Manchester whether it is music, art, comedy or theatre. 

Recent events have made me love this city and region even more. People have shown strength, resilience, compassion and love, and have shown what we are made of. We support each other, we look after each other and we will remain down-to-earth but with our heads held high.

I enjoy visiting many cities and towns but Manchester and Greater Manchester will always be special. It is real, lively and above all it is home. 

*Thank you to everyone who told me why they love Manchester 

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Time to say thank you

This has been a tough year and a tough few months. We have witnessed horrific scenes and seen pain and suffering. My heart goes out to all the families and people who have been affected by the incidents.

We have also seen the very best of people coming together to help and support their fellow man. Communities have come together and it has shown how strong we can be when we stand together. It has also reminded all of us about the tough work the emergency services do on a daily basis.

I am privileged to work with some amazing people who will put themselves in harms way and run into danger to help others. It is something I see every day in less high profile incidents and I have got used to it. But the horrific recent events have reminded me, as it has many other people, that we need to thank our emergency services for the work they do and are prepared to do.

You will always hear the police, firefighters and paramedics say ‘I was just doing my job’ and to a extent that is true. It is a job they have chosen and been trained to do but it is not something everyone could do and that should be recognised.

It is why I am fully supportive of there being a 999 appreciation day. We already have armed forces day which is June 24 this  year to say thank you to those who put themselves at risk to protect others. So why not a day when we can recognise the work of the emergency services.

I am sure that there are many people who would like the chance to say thank you for being there. Even if we have not had to call for help there is a reassurance that people are waiting to help in our hour of need.

We need to make 999 appreciation day a reality. I would be happy to volunteer my services to make it a reality. Anyone else want to get involved?

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When the cameras go

I am getting used to hearing the words ‘you must have been busy for the past three weeks’. My answer usually is to just smile or to add ‘just a little bit’. I know people are just making polite conversation and I shouldn’t get frustrated by it. 

There is a lot written about managing a crisis and what communicators should be doing. It is right that organisations and businesses consider how they would respond to a crisis and that they learn from the experiences of others. But what about the aftermath and the recovery; we say very little about that.

Dealing with an incident is challenging, exhausting and relentless but at some point things reduce and some normality resumes. That for me is when the real challenge for communicators kicks in. Teams are tired and in need of rest. You are still dealing with the incident and the aftermath, at the same time people want normal business to be carried out. This is the time when any additional support will have disappeared and the workload has remained high.

The information sharing and communication activity undertaken in the aftermath of a crisis is as important as the initial phase. If it misjudges the mood or fails to cover the key issues then confidence can be lost. The pressure has not reduced, if anything it has increased. When many in the organisation will be getting back to normal communications is one area that will have to wait for normality.

Our planning and exercises don’t take the long term issues into account. They stop short when they should go further. We need to consider more than just the initial response and be prepared that the long term could be months or even years. Maybe it is time to rethink how we prepare for a crisis and remember it can last a long time. The pressure on communicators will continue and while this is tough it also means there are lots of opportunities to take if you can recognise they exist.

The recovery may not seem as exciting but it is arguably the most critical time. As communicators we need to remember our work continues in earnest even when the camera crews have gone.

Posted in challenge, communication, crisis communication, emergency services, manchester, policing | 1 Comment