OPINION: Research is the new police mantra

The police, like most of the public sector, are experiencing tighter and tighter budgets every year. So how do you ensure your voice gets heard and there is a commitment at a senior level within your organisation to invest in communications?

Sarah McGregor
Sarah McGregor

I would suggest two simple words. Research and evaluation. Review what research is already available in the public domain and ensure you evaluate as much of your communication activity as you possibly can (and then of course promote what you are doing).

Research from Ipsos Mori, for example, clearly demonstrates that if people are better informed about what the police are doing to tackle problems they will have more confidence in it as an organisation.

It is also about concentrating on the simple things. Residents prefer to find out what is going on via leaflets or newsletters, followed by local newspapers. It is about focusing on what actions we are taking and using our neighbourhood policing teams to help us deliver local messages.

We have recently evaluated a newsletter containing localised information that very much supports the Ipsos Mori work. There were significant improvements in residents' attitudes to a whole range of factors, from how safe they felt through to how reassured they were in the police taking action.

By promoting the Ipsos Mori research, and our evaluation of this newsletter pilot, to key decision-makers within Surrey Police, we achieved a budget commitment to roll these newsletters out forcewide across Surrey.

Without these facts and figures we would not have had the evidence to argue the case.

Many of our organisations are in the process of setting targets for the next financial year. There must be a number of targets that comms can directly contribute towards. In the police service it is likely to be in the area of public confidence.

Identify those targets and demonstrate how we as communicators can make a difference. Be prepared to go to performance meetings and be held to account for what we are doing.

We can only demonstrate our worth if we evaluate and promote what we do.

Sarah McGregor is head of corporate communications at Surrey Police.

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