I had a quiet little laugh last week when I read a blog post by Dan Slee of comms2point0 with the headline “you know you work in public sector comms when…”. The article is tongue in cheek and very amusing. However, much of it rang true and seemed all too familiar to me.
I’ve spent most of my working life in public sector PR in various roles. I love the buzz, the fact that I can get involved in real issues and the fact that, just very occasionally, I can actually make a little bit of a difference. But there is no doubt that it can be frustrating.
In my experience, one of the great frustrations of working in local government PR is that, as Dan Slee’s blog points out, everyone else can do my job better than me. That is particularly an issue with the elected members, many of who are, let’s be perfectly honest here, not all that bright and in some cases functionally illiterate. There is an ever present problem with those councillors who consistently refuse to undertake any form of media training because they have convinced themselves that they don’t need it. Yeah right!
Then there is the issue of getting sign off on press releases. When I send a draft to the appropriate head of service I simply need him or her to check it for accuracy, not to jargonise it so much that it becomes unintelligible. Also, if I say that I need a response from you no later than noon on Tuesday, I really mean it. Friday afternoon really will be too late.
We all know that Councils do regularly make a mess of things. When this happens, especially with high profile screw ups, the best that I can do is a damage limitation job. I can’t make the problem go away. I’ve lost count of the number of times that a Chief Executive or senior councillor has told me that we should deal with a crisis by ignoring it and saying nothing. Funnily enough I can’t think of a single instance in which that approach has worked!
I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture.