Half way there….

As I celebrated another birthday last week I realised (with horror) that my career was 20 years old.

I got my first job in 1999 and since then have been a journalist, copywriter, freelancer and public sector communicator so it’s probably true to say I’m around half way through (give or take a few years).

The pace of change and disruption in our sector since 1999 has been like an industrial revolution and there’s already been plenty written about that over the months and years so I won’t focus on that here.

In thinking back over my past two decades at work it’s easy to identify all the big changes, but one of the things that strikes me most looking back over that time is how many of the communications fundamentals have actually stayed the same.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

I grew up at school hoping to be a journalist because I was interested in telling stories that I hoped people would be interested in hearing. In training it was drummed into us to focus on readers, stick to the facts, understand what made a good story and think hard about the best way of telling it.

All these years on some of the key principles haven’t changed as much as the channels we use to communicate.

The big challenge now is understanding how we can tell the right stories about our organisations locally that our audiences will find useful, interesting and inspiring.

Done in the right way this will support our organisational strategy and directly improve patient experience by helping to meet whatever your key objectives are.

Top 3 bottom 3

Working in public sector PR isn’t coal mining but it’s still pretty hard at times and I’ve distilled down what I think are the top 3 challenges facing us:

1.      Unlike almost every other corporate service everyone is a comms expert. Because most people have their own social media account it obviously follows that they can all do the job far better than you. The best response I saw to this was from a US social media manager who said “Just because I own an oven doesn’t make me a chef”

2.      Everyone comes to you with their number 1 problem. In a big complex organisation you can’t solve everyone’s number one problem. Triaging work and understanding what’s really important is very difficult.

3.      Capacity vs demand. Because of the constantly growing number of ways that people can engage with an organisation demand for comms is increasing all the time. At the same time there’s never been more pressure on resources.

Notes & Observations

Here’s a few thoughts and observations that crossed my mind in the week when I mused on middle age and mid-career but do shout if you have your own.

  • There’s an awful lot of guff talked about our industry, but the ability to work out how to best communicate with all your audiences and tell the right story is still at the heart of what we do.
  • Objectives, strategy, tactics (OST) should be a tattooed reminder.
  • There’s an absolute beauty in simplicity, which is why it’s so hard.
  • Like reputation, flexibility and resilience are hard built and quickly lost
  • Purpose – why are we here? Is a question we should ask ourselves over and over.

See you around.


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