Heroes and villains, police and thieves

The world is constantly changing and as professional communicators it is vital that we are also observers of the world around us. If we become trapped in our environment we can start to lose our effectiveness.

The world is not as binary as social and traditional media would have us believe, argues Amanda Coleman
The world is not as binary as social and traditional media would have us believe, argues Amanda Coleman

Over the past few years I have watched the development of social media and the changes in how people use it.

I have written before about the positive and negative of social media, but one thing it continues to play out has an impact on all our communication activity: the simplification of life through its binary nature.

The media and social media split people into heroes and villains. You are either a good person doing good things or you are bad and doing negative things.

The speed of communication has created this shorthand to make life easier for people to quickly grasp and understand.

This becomes more complicated and challenging during a crisis, when communication is essential and often needs to be nuanced.

The world is not one of 'black and white' events, where people are either good or evil.

Our communication needs to consider how the information will be interpreted and reused as well as being forwarded on.

It must understand the public mood and where the organisation may be positioned. This can totally alter your communication approach and the focus of your work.

In my work we have been on both sides of the fence. The most important thing is to know where you are and where people see you.

Understanding that should then inform and tailor your communication activity and the narrative you develop.

There seems to be no likelihood that this binary approach will change any time soon as social media reinforces it.

That is why we have to recognise it and what it means for our approach to communication.

Amanda Coleman is head of corporate comms for Greater Manchester Police

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