Someone had a new starter and innocently asked the Public Sector Comms Headspace Facebook group what advice they would give. Here are edited highlights.
by Dan Slee
A new day and a new job… everyone has been the new person at least once in their lives.
You Get your ID card photo taken, you get shown a load of new faces and you are shown where to sit.
And then once IT have pulled out their finger, you may even get a PC and an email address.
That’s the basics. But what do you REALLY need to know if you are starting a career in public sector communications? Sarah Yates asked what advice she should offer a new starter this week and what emerged was a list of pearls of wisdom in the Public Sector Headspace Facebook group.
Advice for a new starter in public sector communications
“if you make a mistake no one dies.”
“Everyone will think they know your job better than you. They won’t.”
“You can’t say yes to everyone. Take care to prioritise, and let people down gently.”
“Seems really obvious but easily forgotten, always see things from your audience’s eyes. Always.”
“It’s tough. It’s frustrating. Every day is different. You’ll love it.”
“Plain English is key, don’t get drawn into organisational jargon.”
“Be patient with colleagues. They aren’t comms pros and will suggest all sorts of stupid stuff. Smile and guide them gently.”
“No one makes a decision thinking it’s the wrong thing to do…you can only go with the info you have at the time & evaluate later!”
"Don’t be a dick"
“Give your professional opinion, calmly lay out likely outcomes of taking a different course of action, accept that your advice may not always be followed, only say "I told you this would happen" on the inside – because they already know, and they know that you know that they know.”
“Plain English and good grammar is important.”
“Public sector folk love meetings. Go to the ones that you know will be valuable. And turn down all requests for you to attend pointless meetings.”
“Get involved with projects as early as possible.”
“Common sense and a sense of humour.”
“Always get it signed-off.”
“Non-comms expect you to be psychic.”
“Ask what the main objective is and keep content clear, concise and visual.”
“Don’t try and blag it on the phone to a journalist. If you don’t know, take a message and let an experienced member of the team call them back.”
“It is not communications’ fault if your organisation has screwed something up and a negative story about that screw up appears in the newspapers.”
“Remember that ultimately you answer to and serve your residents. Never let someone talk u into trying to con, dupe, lie or cheat them. Keep your integrity always.”
“Some of your biggest personal challenges will come from managing two core tensions. Firstly, are you there to serve the needs of the organisation, or the needs of the people the organisation is there to serve – the demands on you may sometimes seem driven too much by the former, and too little on the latter? Secondly, in corporate Comms you always have to be prepared for the dissonance of living with two coexisting and opposing truths: "perception is never truth" and "perception is always truth".
“Laugh and laugh again even louder. Humour is essential and the key to survival in comms.”
Thanks to everyone who contributed to the discussion including Kate Pratt, Daniel Cattanach, Geirgie Agass, Sarah Yates, Neil Gibson, Tom Griffin, Lorna Marsh, Morvern Rennie, Ben Solly, Katy Barton, Donna Jordon, Leanne Claire Rockingham, Mandy Pearse, Cherie Welburn, Jessica Roberts, Shayoni Sarker Lynn, Kelly Quigley-Hicks, Carolien Addison, Anna James, Paul Compton, Andrea Sturgess, Joy Hale, Hayley Douglas, Katie Christie, Alison Jones, Angela Sinclair, Rosemary Cook, Sameen Farouk, Tania Ripolli, Pauline Roche, Daniel White, Emma Donovan, Stephen Welsby, David Grindlay, Asdrian Osborne, Albert Freeman, David Bell, Phil Hodgson, Peter Holt and Angharad Price.
Dan Slee is co-creator of comms2point0.