The 'we' culture in public sector comms

I always look forward to my annual copy of the PRWeek Power Book, to try to spot those that I know or have worked with, as well as to read about their take on work and life generally.

Public-sector comms professionals often default to talking about their team rather than their own efforts, writes Amanda Coleman
Public-sector comms professionals often default to talking about their team rather than their own efforts, writes Amanda Coleman

I feel really privileged that I have been included in it this year when all I do is head up communication for Greater Manchester Police.

But I was once again resigned to the fact that very few public-sector communicators were featured.

People are chosen from the top communication roles across all sectors and, once approached, they provide details so they can be included.

After 20 years in police communication and slightly longer in public-sector communication roles, I wondered whether it was once again the 'we' culture that may be holding us back from involvement.

Public-sector communicators, when interviewed for roles, will almost always talk about what 'we' did rather than what they as an individual did.

They have a strong team approach, which is great, but can hold them back when applying for jobs because you never really know exactly what their individual role was in the examples they give.

Perhaps they are not replying to PRWeek because they don’t want to be featured on their own, because it is very much a team effort?

It is true that public-sector communicators have been under pressure due to many years of cuts that have squeezed teams.

The work remains fairly relentless and the expectation on public-sector staff in all roles has never been higher.

All this can mean you keep your nose to the grindstone and keep doing the work without looking up and around. It is difficult to get much thinking time during work hours, so you rarely remember to share your PR and communication successes.

We should not feel second-class to those working in-house in the private sector, working in agencies or working independently. Everyone has something to give to the development of PR and communication, and bringing different perspectives really matters.

It is why I found the first PRCA Council meeting so exciting. The Council brings together people from all sectors of PR and communication to discuss issues and look at making a difference.

There is an equality of views with all contributions important.

I am passionate about public-sector communication even after more than two decades working in it.

There are lots of people doing amazing work that has impact and really benefits peoples’ lives.

They don’t necessarily enter awards, because of the cost of entry. They are not likely to be promoting themselves, because they are representing the organisation. They will be working in some of the most challenging arenas and will be helping people in a whole range of ways.

It is time for public-sector communicators to be confident and to look up at the communication world around them.

It is vital for their own personal development, but also to ensure that they are providing the best service and sharing the good practice from the day job.

I hope that in 2020 the PRWeek Power Book includes a few more public-sector communicators who can then encourage others to take this step in their career.

Amanda Coleman is head of corporate comms at Greater Manchester Police

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