On my consultancy and training travels around the UK I get to learn so much from other people. Plus, there are comms lessons all around us if we look closely enough. And so, I thought I would begin sharing these lessons more regularly via the somewhat obvious blog post title of ’Things I learned this week’ 😊
I hope you enjoy volume 09
by Darren Caveney
1. Can we stop being horrible to each other?
One of the things I have done a lot of over the past few years is social media training for elected members. I really enjoy these sessions – most of the members taking part are really good fun and whether they love or hate social media it’s always a lively workshop full of debate, opinions and ideas.
But the growing trend I’ve spotted over the past year to 18 months has been the number of members sharing the bad experiences they’ve had on social media. And I mean really bad. I ran a session on Tuesday with a council and in it two members shared their experiences, which ranged from vile abuse, stalking, online death threats and even an escalation to face-to-face verbal abuse and police intervention.
These are not isolated incidents.
My job in these sessions is to highlight the benefits of elected members being online and engaging with their residents on social media. And there are multiple benefits. But blimey they have to put up with some nonsense too.
Let’s not beat around the bush here...
There are a minority – albeit prominent – band of national MPs whose behaviour these past three years has been scandalous. There has been lying, cheating, and law breaking. We have probably all had to rein ourselves in from reacting to posts on social media. On a near daily basis. The most recent Edelman Trust Barometer survey in the UK highlights that 69% of us believe that our fellow citizens are angrier about politics and society since Brexit. It’s something we’re all dealing with.
And whilst I would never condone abuse or threats there are some MPs who really have done their industry a grave disservice in the period leading up to and since 2016. You know who they are.
But there are levels here. And a local elected member is a very different beast to a member of parliament. Yes, it’s politics, and I know I am in danger of being naive here, but your average local councillor certainly isn’t in it for the cash or the glamour – they are usually good eggs who care about their local patch and want to put something back in. Not all, sure. But most, in my experience. And previous Edelman Trust Barometer surveys have highlighted that we generally trust our local elected members much more than we do our national MPs.
And they absolutely don’t deserve to be dealing with death threats on Facebook on a Tuesday evening.
The highlight of my working week – scrap that, working month – was when one of the members who had been badly abused only went and reactivated her social media account during the workshop. That’s brave and rather inspiring. I hope she gets voted back in next election time.
2. Mental health. Again. This is becoming a thing isn’t it…
Last night another conversation took place (you could say broke out) on Twitter about mental ill health within our industry. It’s genuinely good that an ever-brighter light is being shone on the issue. There is a very clear demand for much more to be done here. Just look at the @CommsUnplugged Twitter chat in May where 850 tweets were shared in little over an hour by 170 concerned comms pros.
I’ve said before that the most powerful presentation I saw in the whole of 2018 was by Leanne Ehren talking about her personal experiences on mental ill health. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I introduced her to the stage but when Leanne began speaking the room fell silent.
We all listened.
We all thought.
And then we all applauded.
It made me realise that I needed to do more in this area.
Leanne was incredibly brave to do that in front of an audience of 350 and kudos to Granicus UK and Dave Worsell for featuring her and the topic on their annual summit’s agenda. More of this please.
Is it time for our industry to move beyond wellbeing surveys and related conversations? Hell, yes, to quote Ed Milliband. But we’re not starting from scratch here. Others have been quietly creating their own initiatives, events and groups. The movement is already well underway.
Comms Unplugged gives over a third of its programme to wellbeing activities, tips and workshops on how we can each better manage our own wellbeing. Comms Unplugged is not for profit so I feel comfortable in saying this: It’s the best comms event you’ll go to all year. Period.
So, if you’re concerned about your wellbeing - or a bit like me and want to be better at spotting the signs and more adequately equipped to support others - then get yourself to Comms Unplugged. But be quick because it’s 75% sold out.
By working together we stand a better chance of making a sizeable dent in the growing mental health crisis present in our industry. But it’s time for action, active support – including £s - and a listening ear.
Huge thanks to the event sponsors who dip into their own pockets to support wellbeing at Comms Unplugged – they are Granicus, CAN Digital, Alive with Ideas, Perago-Wales, Fresh Air Fridays and Creative Communicators Ltd.
And if our official industry bodies want to join the Comms Unplugged party brilliant – please do.
But please bring a bottle with you.
Go to commsunplugged.co.uk for more info.
3. A trip down memory lane – remember knobbies?
On one of the Comms Unplugged WhatsApp groups yesterday my pal Phil Jewitt mentioned these, below, from the 70s - Little rubber fruit and veg characters which you put on the top of your pencil.
Remember them? You’ll have to be of a certain vintage.
I absolutely loved them. I so wanted to collect them all but never quite made it.
Phil reminded me that Mr Onion had a fatal design flaw - his arms easily broke off. Poor Mr Onion.
We used to call them knobbies when we were kids and I mentioned this on the group chat. It instantly went really quiet.
I felt alone. Ha, nobody else called them that, obviously, It must have been a Brummie thing.
But what a lovely little flashback to a different time.
And I’m back on the hunt for a knobbie.
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