Public sector communications really isn't a bad thing

This year has most certainly been a whirlwind tour of every corner of the UK for me. Conferences, unconferences, events, meetings. If it's had a public sector or emergency services whiff about it, I've been there talking about my passion for shared services and MusterPoint.

Reading through my notes from each event, there has been a common theme. With any speaker that has come from the private sector comms arena, there has always been a questioned asked of them; "What do you think we could do better in public sector comms".

Every time, without fail the answer is "You're already doing it. You're really good at it - in fact, better than private sector."

I was once told that if I stayed too long in emergency services comms, I'd be doomed to stay there (as if it were a bad thing) and that I'd never earn more than £65k tops. Now, it would seem, those with crisis comms skills are really sought after by the private sector. But why is it so that everyone in the public sector feels they are a bit rubbish when it comes to managing comms?

Having judged the recent Comms2Point0 UnAwards for the best crisis comms category, I was surprised that there weren't so many entries. I knew there were many worthy of shortlisting, if not winning, but they just weren't there.  Then I realised that it was because there is a real reticence to shout about success when that success has ultimately come from a crisis. 

Unfortunately, a crisis in the emergency services has come about due to a loss of life or something that has caused huge emotional trauma for someone along the line. So therefore, it would make someone feel uncomfortable to talk about their experiences and shout about it. I understand that. There are many jobs I've worked on that I actually thought myself and my team handled really well. I wouldn't go into them though - we've trained ourselves to be too risk averse.

The point is, if those jobs had been handled badly, we would be first with our heads on the chopping board. It's like crime prevention - you can't measure something that hasn't happened.

Being proud of a job well done should be part of what we do and not something to be ashamed of. It's not capitalising on someone else's grief or trauma, but it's about knowing you provided a service to the public that they may not even realise was a good one. Sharing these experiences can only help others and they should never be hidden.

The very fact that many people say they could never shout about it just shows how professional and compassionate they are. Caring about your actions as a communicator is what makes you good at what you do. Tell people about it, they'll learn, understand and hopefully take on some of your advice to make their comms better.

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