Shocking, but light will shine through

I feel that today I have to reflect on the terrible events of the last 24 hours and the horror that arrived to the streets in Nice. My thoughts are with all those that are affected, their families, friends and loved ones. Terror attacks have become a feature of life in the last 20 or more years but they still manage to shock me.

When we learn of such horrific events it makes us question the nature of modern life and humanity. It can make us feel vulnerable and then start to fragment our communities as we look to protect ourselves and our families. But we can’t and from the darkness we have to see the light that exists.

In Nice there are reports of people making desperate attempts to stop the truck putting themselves at risk. There were law enforcement and others that ran towards the danger to try to protect people. Within all the horror there will be lots of stories of how people came together, tried to help each other, and demonstrated the best of human nature.Those are the people that I want to focus on and talk about.

Communities are strongest when they put aside their differences and find the common ground that will allow them to work together. It needs us all to recognise this and be prepared to do our bit to make the change. As I get older I find myself becoming more and more interested in how I can help the community I am part of. When there is a threat or some negative element taking hold it makes me want work with others to overcome the darkness.

Social media can help to bring us together but it can also create division. I saw some great positive steps last night where people were using social media to try and help those needing a place to live, or who needed to let relatives and friends know they were ok. But I also saw the worst of it with videos that were autoplaying on social networks. I want to give people some dignity when they have suffered such a violent attack, and there is no reason for anyone, and particularly the media, to publish those videos.

I hope we continue to see the positive aspects of human nature shining through. I know that I watched with horror but with a determination that I will do what I can to bring communities together.

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Sacrifice and service

Today has been a time to remember the sacrifice and bravery of many police officers. I felt it right to devote my blog to this important subject. There are many people who face difficult and challenging times at work, but there are few of us who will potentially put our own lives at risk to help others. It is why I still find I am immensely proud to work for one of the emergency services.

The loss of PCs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes affected a huge number of people. My thoughts have always been with those close family members who were going about their daily business only to have their world shattered by the horrific news that they were not coming home. They are remembered by many people and the memorial unveiled today will ensure that many more will remember them and the sacrifice they made.

Tonight are the Police Bravery awards in London when every police force will have an inspirational story about officers putting themselves at risk to protect others. I am always amazed by what officers do and after 17 years working alongside them this has not changed. We should all take some time to recognise the contribution made to individuals and communities, and say thank you. Say thank you because they do a job that most of us just would not be able to do.

Of course we know there is good and bad in everything and in every profession. Not all police officers provide selfless service to communities and unfortunately these few are often the ones that hit the headlines. Police communicators and others are doing what they can to highlight the acts of heroism and bravery, and where police officers and staff go above and beyond. Those are the stories that are worthy of recognition on a daily basis.

Today though is mainly about two colleagues – Fiona and Nicola – who were taken from their families, friends, Greater Manchester Police and communities. They must always be remembered, now and in the future, for the sacrifice they made. I hope their families found some comfort in the memorial unveiled today.


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What you stand for

There is no way of escaping politics. It has been on all the TV news channels all day, in fact for quite a few days. This blog will steer away from the politics but it has taken some of the events of today as its inspiration. When Theresa May took up the post as Prime Minister she outlined what she stood for. Is this something we should all do?

If you were asked to do the same do you think you could do it? Would you be able to easily outline what was important to you, what you were supportive of and what you wanted to achieve in the next 12 months? I would imagine most of us would need a bit of time to be able to unpick it but also then start to put it together in a way that other people would understand.

Imagine then that we ask people that know you to do this same and outline what they believe you stand for. Could they do it? More than that would their detailed explanation match yours?

We can often be inconsistent in how we approach life and how we make our decisions. However, we all have some principles that we adhere to, those elements that are of crucial importance to us. We often have taken these principles with us throughout our life and they are formed during our early years.

I think it would be useful for all of us to be able to articulate what we stand for. It helps us to understand ourselves by a period of introspection, but it also means we can take stock of our views. Effectively we can step back from the hustle and bustle of daily life and check where we are and what we are doing before stepping back into the fray.

This weekend I am going to use the opportunity a little bit of free time and will aim to outline what I stand for and what matters to me. Then I will reflect on what this means. I will update about the results in a future blog so watch this space.

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SEO, PPC….confusion

I was drafted in last minute to speak at a conference about search engine optimisation among other things. It was an interesting afternoon but not when the mathematical equations came out. This is an area of marketing and communication that I haven’t really explored in any detail. I expected to be a fish out of water but surprisingly I wasn’t.

The Benchmark Conference 2016 had an illustrious list of speakers who live and breathe SEO on a daily basis. There was a lot of discussion about the customer experience and inbound or outbound marketing. I have to admit to getting a bit lost when one speaker was talking about PPC.

I am not sure my short talk about targeting an audience through social media was something that resonated with the attendees. But I found some common ground, and that was how all businesses and organisations need to understand their audience or customer and have to be able to target communication, PR or marketing. It doesn’t matter what you are doing if you are going to have maximum impact then you have to do the groundwork.

For me the focus is about increasing public confidence and encouraging people to work with us to make communities safer. For others the focus is on increasing sales and driving customers to make purchases. These are two very different things but the way to achieve it is surprisingly similar. There has to be honesty, an ability to listen, wanting to develop based on feedback and the communication has to be consistent and continuous.

Getting people interested in what you have on offer, whether it a service or a product, is a challenge for everyone. It is even more of a challenge when you have a very, very limited budget. It requires creativity, innovation and a problem solving approach. After all there are no greater problems than trying to engage with customers when you have no money.

Stepping into a different place is usually beneficial and today certainly was. I met some interesting people and learnt something new. It also reminded me that there are more similarities than differences between communicators.

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Building a future or telling a story?

I saw an interesting tweet today that said the role of CEO now needed them to be ‘chief storyteller’. It sounds like a phrase that hits all the latest fads and trends in communication. I have written before about the importance of telling stories to humans and how it can bring us together, making us more social. But I do have a problem with the connotation it brings to talk about storytelling.

Everyone wants the CEO to embody the principles, values and behaviour that are required for the organisation. People want the person at the top to be honest and have integrity. They want to know that whatever the boss says it will happen and it is not just hot air. This makes any discussion about ‘storytelling’ problematic because it feels as though we are being entertaining at the expense of truth.

We do require the CEO to be able to articulate the future of the organisation or business. They have to easily explain where we are now and where we need to be in the coming years. They have to be able to make the dusty plans become lively explanations relevant to the current workplace. It means the senior management have to understand what life is like on the frontline of the business.

They will not be able to bridge the gap between frontline and the corporate plans without having a detailed knowledge of the business from the frontline staff and user perspective. Without this knowledge they will lack authenticity and will fail to make the picture of the future relevant to the workforce.

The role of the CEO has changed now and has to be more things to more people. Our expectations of them have increased. In these challenging financial times we want to know that there is a plan for the future, what it means and how we fit into it. The person at the top has to make all that happen. This pressure means there are opportunities for professional communicators to step in and support the person at the top to make this happen. Perhaps it is more about building a future than telling a story.


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It isn’t raining anymore

We often blame the environment around us for the way we feel. I am as guilty as most for saying the weather was getting me down, work is causing me frustration or the lack of something is making me miserable. It is all too easy to believe that happiness and a sense of contentment comes from what is around us. It isn’t.

The key to our feelings is within us and we have to get in touch with that if we are going to lift our mood. If this was easy then we would all be doing it but it isn’t and that is why we spend time surrounding ourselves with things. We buy things, we gain things, and we look to things to make us feel happier. To be fair, when I go shopping then I usually do feel happy but only for a short time. Once the credit card bill arrives I know I am not going to feel happy.

Instead, I know that if I have spent some time in contemplation or meditation then I am likely to have a happiness that is longer lasting. This is also the way that I can build inner resilience to the daily turmoil of life. I will know then that the weather is not really important and will change later or tomorrow anyway. I will be able to see the positive elements of work and I will realise that what I am missing is within me and not outside.

I have blogged many times about the importance of saying thank you and recognising what you have, and of having a positive outlook on life. It seems the simplest thing and yet it is so difficult for us to achieve it. Recently, I have neglected both elements and I have suffered the consequences. If we don’t do any exercise for a few weeks then we feel it physically and it is the same if we fail to exercise our minds in a positive way.

Tomorrow is Monday morning and typically a day for us to feel low and a chance to moan about work, rain or whatever. Perhaps we should focus on gratitude and positivity for the next 24 hours. Let me know if you do and how the day goes.




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Fascinating lives

Yesterday my blog was inspired by listening to an interview with writer and illustrator Judith Kerr and tonight I was fascinated by a documentary about the life of Tove Jansson who was the creator of the Moomins. She lived an amazing and varied life which had its downs as well as ups.

The two things have reminded me of how interested I am in people and their lives. It is easy for any of us to get focused on ourselves, our own lives and what is happening in them. Thinking about others is important and can tell us a lot about ourselves if we stop talking and start listening.

I have often wondered what sparked my interest in becoming a journalist; after all we have not had any journalists within the family before me. There must have been something that excited my young brain given that I was focused on going into the job before I had left primary school. I know that I was interested in people, what made them and how they lived their lives.

When I finally started as a reporter it was always the chance to meet ‘real’ people that made a good day for me. Hearing about their successes and failures, how they had achieved results and how they had shown vulnerability, was all inspiring to me. It was an even better day for me when I felt that through reporting the story I may have assisted or improved their lives.

For me all professional communicators really have to love people and their stories. I can’t see how you can get the maximum from the job if you don’t find people endlessly fascinating. If you are going to develop effective communication then you have to understand people and to do that you need to study people. Without this you are just talking at people rather than having a conversation.

This is probably why I find social media so addictive. It is a way to have those conversations all of the time and not just within the hours of work. At its best it can be a window on other people’s lives and can be incredibly revealing about their thoughts, motivation and priorities.

Perhaps we should all take some time to think about other people and look up from the inspection of our own lives.


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