Creativity, resourcefulness and resilience: My year covering public sector comms

When I was asked in January to edit a weekly bulletin, covering public sector communications and highlighting the fascinating work going on there, I must admit to having felt a little daunted.

Creativity, resourcefulness and resilience seem to be the watchwords of this sector
Creativity, resourcefulness and resilience seem to be the watchwords of this sector
It was a sector I knew very little about, other than my interactions with it as a mainstream news journalist earlier in my career.

So this year has been something of a journey of discovery for me as I felt my way into the sector and tried to understand what you get up to all day (and sometimes at night).

By covering the work that you do, I have found a sector which is creative and agile in its approach to comms; often capitalising on news events to put out a well-timed tweet or press release that engages with its target audience. News-jacking, in other words, and delivered every bit as well as a large agency with considerably more manpower.

I have found a sector that has shown resourcefulness in the face of ever-tightening budgets and shrinking teams. 

It’s a trait I have always admired, as a journalist, and it is not hard for me to relate to the concept of doing more with less either.

But above all, I have found a sector that has demonstrated an incredible level of resilience.

This year has seen terrorist attacks, as well as one of Britain’s biggest peace-time disasters. Comms teams, and the organisations they serve so passionately, have shown courage, determination and cool heads in the face of events that would test the majority of us to beyond breaking point.

I cannot help but be impressed.

But it is not only these events that demonstrate the character traits I am attributing to the sector; it is also the everyday work.

Whether that is a local authority trying to drive up school attendance, or responding to a snap general election by helping to drive voter registration to record levels in a short space of time, or the low-level behaviour change work that nudges people into better habits and, ultimately, saves lives.

I have had the pleasure of interviewing some of you in a little more depth than is required for a short news story.

Given the wealth of talent and experience I have found, many of you would not only survive but thrive in an equivalent private sector role.

I often ask interviewees what attracts them to working in public sector comms, especially when the financial rewards are probably considerably greater in the private sector.

I could probably distil the answers you have given me to this question into two main points: The first is that you enjoy the complexity of the challenge in public sector comms; and the second is that you find the work truly meaningful.

I can only agree. This is not about increasing the brand recognition of a chocolate bar (although all power to those whose job it is to convince us to buy them); this is about work that permeates our lives - from the cradle to the grave. 

It’s about teaching our children road safety, it’s about telling us what do if we’re caught up in a terrorist attack and it’s about getting us to think of our future and save more for our pensions.

I doff my trilby to you and wish I you all the best for the year ahead, whatever fresh challenges that brings.

Ian Griggs is the editor of PRWeek's Public Sector Comms bulletin

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