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Remember public sector communicators

I was interested to read the highlights of the State of the Profession survey results published today by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR). In particular there were some trends identified within public sector communication that were highlighted by PR Week.

Through this blog I have written a great many times about the love I have for the job I do. Working in the public sector has some amazing and positive aspects to it. Tonight I was speaking to local people at a meeting of community and the police about a piece of consultation we are doing. They talked about their problems, issues and what was going on and I was able to share information and some good news. Around 25 years ago I enjoyed such meetings as a reporter and today I enjoy them from a different perspective.

But I have my eyes open and I know there are some significant challenges for public sector communicators. It tests your dedication and commitment on a regular basis and means developing resilience for individuals and teams is critical. The survey found three important things; budgets were being cut, public sector pay was lagging behind other sectors, and morale was lower than in other sectors. I am sure public sector communicators will be saying ‘tell me something I don’t know’.

The first two are definitely true. For more than seven years we have seen budgets continually reduced and with the budget looming next week the pressure to drive out cost is not going to go away. This is difficult but there are many positives that you can find in this. To start with you have to get creative and try new things when you have no money, which can lead to great innovation. Public sector communicators pay has been lower for many years and now we are some way off the industry average. It means our recruitment has to be more targeted to identify those people who want to enjoy the variety and excitement but are not driven solely by monetary gain. But we know we are only keeping people for a short period of time. For three years we have been struggling with a recruitment crisis within police communications. It has required new thinking, bringing people in and training them at work, looking at apprenticeships, offering other benefits like flexible working.

Both low budgets and low pay can lead to low morale but I think there is another factor involved. Public sector communicators get satisfaction from knowing that what they do matters, and that they can improve the lives of people. So as services are stretched it is upsetting to see where people are being left without access to vital services and support. We know there is so much we should be doing but with a limited resource we have to prioritise and that means letting some people down.

I noticed that the CIPR has outlined five issues from the survey that they are acting upon. Unfortunately, the issues for public sector communicators are not among those five perhaps they should consider a sixth action to support all public sector communicators?

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Amanda Coleman

Head of Corporate Communications at Greater Manchester Police. CIPR member and currently chair of the Association of Police Communicators (APComm)

Posted in Editor's Picks, Internal Comms, Public Relations

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