other influences make you a better communicator

Every now and then we have a guest editor. They pick five links, write a post and pick a tune and we post them to Twitter. We also ask for a random fact about them that not many people know. Today's guest editor? She was in a team that finished 2nd in the Irish Dancing World Championships in 1995.

by Bridget Aherne

Drawing on other influences is a vital part of being an effective communications practitioner whatever level you work at and that was the thought process behind the random fact I shared today.

Public relations does not exist just to serve itself – it helps businesses perform at their absolute best whether that’s to sell toys or fight fires – so it’s important to soak up other sources of information to understand organisations and those they need to communicate with.

A good place to start is with what’s around us, what culture we’re from, who family members are and, perhaps, what hobbies we’ve been exposed to.

That in itself argues the case for diversity in communications because to understand the audiences we’re dealing with, we need to have people working with us to reflect those we’re communicating with and bring first-hand experience to work.

Working in communications is not about being an amazing writer or cartoonist, its methodically using a mix of data and behavioural insights to assess what you want people to know or do and then find a creative way to help achieve that through perhaps a written product or a cartoon.

Creative brilliance alone doesn’t cut it – like William Morris said nothing useless can be truly beautiful – a scientific approach to underpin the creativity is essential and even those two things aren’t enough as a focus on results and the desired outcome must drive good communicators.

Seeing what captures people’s attention at the Leaning Tower of Pisa, observing people keeping themselves entertained on a bus and spending time talking to a teenager about what really interests them will provide brilliant insights that might be needed later.

It can feel disappointing to decline when someone wants a big media activity that you know will generate interest but just won’t achieve the goal. However, that disappointment is replaced by a real sense of accomplishment when you’ve offered expert advice and an alternative that helps catch a criminal, gets someone to test their smoke alarm or achieves whatever your objective is.

Therefore, today celebrates those things that we might not think are relevant to communications but most certainly help us be excellent at our jobs.

Bridget Aherne is head of communications and administration at Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service.