It has never been tougher. A stressful job with tighter budgets. So, we asked the members of the Public Sector Comms Headspace group what their secrets were.
By Dan Slee
Its never been easier and never been harder to be a comms person.
Easy? Because of the fractured media landscape we’ve got a better idea of where people are. Teenagers are on Snapchat and their parents are on Facebook in the mistaken view that’s where teenagers are.
Hard? Because there are so many channels and so many ways that people are consuming the media. To be good at all of those is difficult. Add to that public sector cuts, austerity and the internet and you can see why PR is the sixth most stressful job in the UK.
Here are some of the things you need to survive.
“A determination to say no. Evidence backed, of course.” – Shayoni Sarkar Lynn
“Resilience.” – Donna Jordan
“A very clear sense of your purpose and the reason you exist within the organisation. A core of steel to be able stick to that purpose – a healthy sense of the ridiculous and definitely gin!” – Susannah Cherry
“The evidence to back up your decisions. And showcase the impact you make. And coffee. Good coffee.” – Adam Fairbank
“It’s also important for people to listen to evidence if it doesn’t go along with what they want to do or belief they’ve previously held. IF you can’t/won’t measure it – don’t do it. ” – Gareth Wood.
“You can’t argue with stats! Well, you probably can but decisions should be based on an evidence base rather than what you think might work. You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”- Adam Fairbank
“The ability to think strategically and develop credibility with those in charge. We increasingly need to work outside traditional boundaries or silos to deliver change. Much of our job is just simply helping leaders lead.” – Kathy Stacey.
“Cake.” – Louise Gibson
“A lot of patience.” – Janet Harkin
“Definitely a good team and support from colleagues outside the team – great for temperature testing your reactions when things get difficult.” – Colette Booth.
“Patience, a sense of humour and an ability to let nonsense wash over you, like water off a duck’s back. Plus persistence, not minding explaining the same things over and over and a set of responses to the age old question ‘But WHY do we need comms?’.” – Katie Christie
“1) An unfaltering focus on outcomes. Real, tangible ones that relate to business or social impact. 2) A good peer support network because in-house is a lonely place where everyone thinks they understand comms but generally they do not.” Katherine Kowalski
“ I would add don’t assume people will listen to you – you may have to build your credibility to gain acceptance for your advice or input. This has particularly been the case for me.” – Joyce Dalgleish
“I oft refer to us as the Ministry of Common Sense – as our respective organisations are entirely capable of going off and doing some utterly amazingly stoopid things and we either have to fix them or where possible, prevent them from happening in the first place. So that sense of realism sensing how decisions will play with the public is invaluable.” – David Grindlay
“A magic wand, lots of sparkly glitter to cover up the ?? And of course a sense of humour ?.” – Suzie Cassels
“Resilience. And cake ?.” – Stephanie Collinson
“All of the above plus a good mug of Yorkshire tea to help you survive it all and think it all through.” – Theresa Knight
“Humour is a must!” – Linos Angharad
“There’s a great Bible verse I learned as a kid: Be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. I think that would be a good motto for comms.” – Jon Matthias
“Board and senior buy-in…and MONEY.” – Gemma Hampson
“WiFi.” – Kirstin Catriona Thomson
“A sense of humour.” – Michelle Atkinson
“Resilience and a never ending ability to juggle multiple issues at once – and not confuse them.” – Vanessa Andrews
“Creativity to solve customer problems to make them happy and evidence to know it’s worked.” – Nancy Lee Corbin
“A thick skin.” – Carolyne Mitchell
“Two of me and double the hours.” – Rachel Gardiner James
“Senior buy in from the organisation and also a senior champion/cheerleader who’s got your back.” – Joanne Cooke
“Senior Buy in, budget and resource.” – Elizabeth Connick Senior
“Thick skin.” – Hayley Douglas
“An ability to juggle with a smile on your face, a telephone to your ear and social media open on your lap top! Agree re sense of humour but also a sense of pride in our profession – everyone can do comms right?? Everyone can communicate but not only we can do comms ?.” – Ceri Doyle
“Resillience.” – Emma Rodgers
“The great and growing understanding of human behaviour and techniques to change it.” – Paul Compton
“Passion and energy ???.” Leanne Ehren
“Teamwork and respect – curiosity and looking for the ‘why’ from all perspectives.” – Carolyn Patterson
“Flexibility, a sense of adventure, and a toe in the water of reality checks.” – Joy Hale
“A sense of humour.” – Sally Northeast
“A pretty good poker/game face.” – Nicky Speed
“Resilience, endless resilience and possibly a sense of humour.” – Amanda Coleman
“Stamina.” – Dawn McGuigan
“Creativity, flexibity, professionalism and a rhino’s hide.” – Mike Carhart-Harris
“Common sense. It’s in remarkably short supply.” – Sian Williams
“Resilience, curiosity, and buckets of optimism!” – Tara Rose
“PERSPECTIVE!! Its the first thing that clients lose under pressure and we are at our best when we remember to bring it to meetings.” – Ciara Feehely
“For a truth universally acknowledged that comms is a professional discipline to be respected and valued just as other business support functions are. (And us all to talk like Jane Austin characters please)” – Sara Hamilton
“Creativity and enough staff.” – Sarah Yates
Dan Slee is co-founder of comms2point0
Picture credit: Ged Carroll / Flickr