We all make mistakes

Mistakes… we all make them. However, they don’t have to be the stressful nightmares that we sometimes let them become.

Whilst the moment immediately after a mistake is discovered can be the most difficult time to think with a calm head, often this is the most important time to pause and think rationally.

I’m reminded of the time (a few years ago now) when there was some mail merge training going on in our office for a new member of the team. As the person was talking the new member through it, they set up a Word document and inserted some sample text. In this case the words “blah, blah blah”. They then attached a sample file containing the recipients and it was good to go. However, jumping ahead one step, the trainee hit the send button. And off went an attachment to a significant number of MSPs with the words blah, blah blah in an attached letter.

Cue the panic.

However, with a calm head and adopting the principle that honesty is the best policy, we simply contacted all the recipients with a full explanation of the training session gone wrong. In the end, we received some light hearted responses back from all but one MSP (who we won’t name) that took our mistake as something more than it was. The rest were perfectly understanding, because as the headline says… we all make mistakes.

Go long, not short

Sometimes you just need a quick PR win, and that’s fine. However, your eye should always be on winning the war, not just the odd battle.

This is particularly true in public service comms. Trust is hugely important. Throw away lines and hollow promises might cure an issue in the short term, but chances are, lack of delivery in the long term will not only leave people feeling short changed, but they will trust what you say less because you couldn’t be trusted to deliver on your word first time around.

It always amazes me to see so many promises made that obviously can’t be delivered upon, or that won’t deliver the results people hope.

So go long with your message. Take people on the journey with you. Give them confidence that you have a plan, even where it is a plan that will take time to deliver. And never make hollow promises.

Humanise it

One of the best ways to get your message across is to humanise it.

We react more to things we can relate to and understand. For example a 3% earnings decrease could mean something entirely different to someone earning £100,000 to someone barely surviving on a lot less. So don’t say 3%. Give it a relatable human element.

The cut to Mary’s earnings meant she could no longer afford to heat her home in the winter.

Definitely more emotive, and lets people understand and assimilate the message you are aiming to get across.

But as with all comms, you should never create fictional or made up examples unless you explicitly advertise that they are such for advertising purposes. Keep comms real, truthful and relatable.

Social should be, erm… social

Social media is everywhere. The overwhelming majority of people, or their businesses have multiple social media accounts.

For any business on social media, it’s important to keep interactions going. You should be social on social. That doesn’t mean you can’t post formal statements, or simple links in a short to-the-point message. It means that you need to reply in a social context, and be human with any further interactions. No-one wants to be treated as a number or a future pay cheque.

Always interact in a warm social way.

Smart Justice

Many readers may have watched with interest as Good Morning Britain weatherman Alex Beresford made an off-camera interjection to a discussion as the invited guest was speaking.

The guest was the chair of the Police Federation for England & Wales.

Beresford’s interruption into a live debate was probably a nightmare scenario for any guest who accepts a slot on live television. Particularly when the person who interjects handles himself as Alex Beresford did.

He provided a passionate, but measured interjection. He related his argument to his own upbringing and social heritage.

From our own work in the justice sector in Scotland, he was absolutely right too. We don’t need tough talking justice that fails to deliver results, we need smart justice solutions, backed by evidence based research, that tackles the issues that lead to crime in the first place.