I heard an interesting discussion at some point this week somewhere but I think it was on the radio. It has been a busy and challenging week so I can’t quite remember where but at the heart of it was the idea that we need to stop worrying about being liked. This is an interesting concept in a world where image is becoming more and more important.
Of course leaving behind any concerns about being liked isn’t about a selfish and hard attitude. It is about being comfortable in our own skin and feeling confident enough that we don’t need to seek constant approval. Yet, this is very difficult to achieve.
From a very young age we are taught to seek approval from our parents, from our friends, from our teachers, from our bosses. What it can mean in a world where people are concerned about being liked is that we behave in odd ways to secure the thumbs up. We do things for a short term boost to our confidence. The actions we take may be questionable in the long term. So how do we make a change?
It has to start in childhood. We need to defy the influence of social media and create an environment where young people feel confident in themselves. Where they don’t need to seek approval because they have a positive view of themselves and the contribution they can make to society. As people grow up they will feel able to step out of the norm to put forward new ideas, try new things or take a new approach. This is the way we can develop and innovate more quickly.
Being confident in yourself does not mean being cruel or harsh to others. You can be independent and also care about those around you. If we are happy with ourselves then studies show that we are likely to be happier. Being liked is nice but it should not be what defines us.
I have been really interested in the arrival of CIPRnet which I am looking forward to getting to grips with this weekend. The aim of it appears to be to provide information and support the work of the many volunteers who support the work of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR). Looking after volunteers is a vital piece of work if we want to have that support available to help us.
All too often organisations like the idea of having volunteers to boost their activities but are not able to put the effort in to make sure that those individuals feel valued. The relationship has to be two way if it is to be really effective. Once recruitment has happened volunteers need to be welcomed into a business, have a clear role and receive regular updates as part of the team. All of this needs time and effort for it to be done right.
I have worked as a volunteer at many points in my life. It started when I was doing my A-levels and I spent a summer working in the local Oxfam shop. In more recent times I have volunteered through the Media Trust and have used my skills and experience to help charities and voluntary organisations. I have given up time, and still do, to judge dressage competitions.
Now I also devote time to working with the CIPR North West committee and recently the Foresight Panel, and I have given up many hours to support the work of the Association of Police Communicators (APComm). Why have I done it? At the heart is the chance to broaden my experience and learn new things. I also have a view that if I can help others, particularly charities, then I should. With the current voluntary work it is about me giving something back to the profession that I love.
When volunteering has worked well it is because I feel valued, I feel my voice can be heard, I feel able to make a difference. This is all stuff that is important to all employees and volunteers are no different. But many organisations don’t recognise this and at worst take voluntary support for granted which can lead to people leaving. We can all do more to ensure volunteers are integrated as part of the organisations workforce.
For many weeks I have been considering a really interesting question. It is one that has relevance to all professional communicators but will not be the subject of much debate or discussion. It is – have we lost the public element of public relations?
That might sound like an odd question after all public relations is all about communicating with people. But I am not sure that we are considering this anymore as we get focused on channels, messages and developing the creative idea. Yet, in all of the work it is the recipient at the end of it that should be at the forefront of our minds.
In recent weeks and months I have gone out and about talking to people about issues and while it was all about consultation it was old-fashioned public relations. The sort of work that was at the heart of work many years ago but that we are increasingly moving away from. I have spoken to many colleagues working in the public sector and direct communication is used less and less. It requires a huge investment of time and we are all time poor, with too much to do and teams being squeezed.
Stepping away from that direct interaction with customers and service users is something that we will regret in the future. It can lead to a gap between what we believe people think and what they actually think. Ultimately, it can mean products get developed that fail because they don’t meet customer requirement, or there is a loss of confidence in the service that is not responsive.
The world of communication is increasingly complex and diverse. It is changing and the boundaries are increasingly fuzzy. We are finding ourselves driving customer service through social media, revising the approach to advertising and being our own publishers. In the midst of all this change where does the individual sit? For me, it has to be at the heart of what we do and we must ensure that the public exists in public relations.
There is one subject that has been a thorn in the side of communication and PR professionals and that is evaluation. It is something we don’t talk about as much as we should and for many it is like learning a foreign language. We know we should do it but we don’t know where to start. We may have bought a book on it that is probably gathering dust on the bookshelves.
It is a subject that is close to my heart but I am still wrestling with exactly what it means. Yes, I am aware of the Barcelona principles and I have looked at the Government OASIS model but I face daily pressures on delivering the work with a reducing amount of resources.
In everything we do we have to know whether it is working or having an impact otherwise why would we continue to do it. It is very nice to win PR and comms awards for creativity and innovation but if the impact is minimal then can we say it was a successful activity?
There is one clear element that should be at the heart of all evaluation work and that is has the activity supported the business objectives in a positive way. I have written many times about the importance of having communications in the boardroom but that can only happen if we are seen to be critical to service delivery.
When I am looking at the outcomes of activity my focus is on how it has supported frontline activity. Did that media release and appeal bring information forward to help the investigation? Did that PR campaign encourage victims to come forward? Does that social media account bring improvements in confidence that means service users are willing to engage?
None of this is easy. I am in no doubt that this is a huge challenge for the profession but we need to ensure it is a discussion at the forefront of daily business. There is no way we can be at the top table without evaluation being part of our conversation on communication. This means we have to use good practice and make it live for the organisation we are supporting.
What did you do today? Did you go to work? Was time taken up looking after the children, doing family things, or perhaps going shopping? It is so easy for us to get caught up in these day-to-day activities and to lose sight of the bigger picture – the reason why we do things.
I had an interesting Facebook post that popped up a year on which said ‘stay close to anything that makes you glad to be alive’. It is a sentiment worth considering in the busy hustle and bustle of life in 2017. Today was the ideal time for it to be brought to the forefront of my thoughts as I have had more than a few things on my mind.
In my younger years I moved jobs quite regularly. I acquired new experiences and developed my skills. But since 1999 I have been working in police communication roles and for the past 16 years for the same organisation. It is easy for me to forget why I am still in the same place albeit in a slightly different role from the one when I started. The reason I do it is that on the whole all things considered it is something I enjoy doing. It gives me a purpose to my day and I know I am lucky as many people are in jobs they don’t like.
For the past 30 years I have been in the same relationship. It is quite an achievement and despite the ups and downs and the challenges we have faced it is still a strong partnership. So what does that all mean?
It means that despite the daily challenges, the routine, the domestic chores and the distractions I have those things that matter to me really close. I just don’t always notice it or be grateful for it. Instead I get focused on the frustration, the things that don’t go right, the bill that arrives in the post, and what I don’t have.
A year ago we lost a good friend who died far too early. It was an important reminder of the need to grasp each day, to see the positive and to keep what matters to you close. Tomorrow is another day and it will be a bright one.
I have been watching the response to Prince Harry and William discussing the need to seek help after their mother’s death. It is refreshing to see such high profile people talk about the issue of mental health and well being but it should not be so unusual.
Modern life is hard and challenging. It is fast, furious and has lots of pressure. Life has always been hard but we kept a stiff upper lip and didn’t talk about things we put them in the cupboard. We have seen progression but people often hold back so they show no weakness.
We still see the mention of seeing someone for help or support as a sign people can’t cope and therefore they must be weak. Yet the strength is in being the person to admit they have sought help.
I have written many times about the critical role that my support network has in keeping me happy and healthy. From my close family through to seeing a life coach, I am not afraid to talk about the help I have been given. It has given me somewhere to turn on those bad days and tips and techniques to manage my response to events.
We need to get to the point where talking about mental health, emotions and issues is seen as a positive sign of strength. It should not be so unusual that it leads to newspaper headlines.
It is Easter after all so I hope nobody minds this blog being focused on someone who has taught me so much.
Around five years ago we met but I wasn’t really part of their group of friends. I was aware of him and we exchanged pleasantries when necessary. As time went on I would occasionally be called on to help out in some way which I didn’t mind.
It is probably two years ago now that I was asked to provide regular support which I did in a friendly but functional way. My focus was on efficiency rather than anything else,
All of this was fine and had no negative impact on me but my world was turned upside down and my eyes opened almost nine months ago. The little person suddenly needed lots of help, support and love. This little person is a rabbit called Coco. Anyone who was spent any time with me in recent months will know about him.
In the past nine months he has taught me so much. He hasn’t had much and he asks for nothing but I try to give him everything. He has reconnected me to my strong love of animals and my desire to take care of them. He has made me forget about counting the pennies as they don’t matter. It is only getting him the right care that matters.
We brought him into our home and in return he gives us an abundance of love. If he could say thank you for taking care of me I am sure he would.
For many years that love was right under my nose and I didn’t see it. I wasn’t open to letting this little bunny into my life. I missed out. But I am not missing out anymore. Easter means many different things to many people but for me it is a time to be thankful for the love I have around me and to remember to keep my eyes open to the possibilities around me. Happy Easter.