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It’s All About Communication

Birmingham South Police Contact DetailsMy local Police force, Birmingham South Police, yesterday held a 24 Hour Tweet-a-thon to promote the fact that they were now using the social networking site, Twitter.

Tweets from Birmingham South PolicePosting Tweets throughout the day to highlight what the force was doing that day in my local area – which includes my hometown of Weoley Castle, as well as Quinton, Harborne, Edgbaston, Bournville, Cotteridge, Stirchley, Kings Heath, Kings Norton, Northfield, Longbridge and West Heath – there were reports throughout the day of crackdowns on crime including drug busts, road traffic accidents, suspicious activity reported by members of the general public and local businesses and even a lost puppy – all of which were followed up later on with news of how the incident was resolved (the puppy was found, safe and sound!).

I found the Tweets a fascinating insight into what my local Police force do on a day-to-day basis.

Birmingham South Police Facebook PageI wasn’t the only person who thought this – as the Birmingham South Police Twitter account shot up to over a 1000 followers throughout the day, and for those not familiar with Twitter, there was also a Birmingham South Police Facebook Page which also provided a mechanism to see what was happening and to provide feedback.

Now I know I’m not the only person who has at times bemoaned the fact that it “feels” there is never a Police officer around when you want one. I’ve heard this same complaint from neighbours and friends.

Statistics don’t make you feel safer

I’m also not the only person who doesn’t seem to find comfort in the fact that the Home Office announced that Crime figures had fallen 8% in the last Quarter. The statistic doesn’t make me “feel” safer.

Why is that? I think it’s because most people don’t relate to statistics, and instead go with how they actually “feel” based on what they observe.

I spoke to lots of friends and neighbours who had followed Birmingham South Police’s 24 hour Tweetathon yesterday, and without fail every one of them said something similar to “I had no idea of how much the Police do every day!”. From these conversations, I felt a sense of re-assurance and faith in the local Police Force that I hadn’t noticed before. These friends liked knowing what was happening locally – whether it directly affected them or not.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is – it’s all about communication, both giving people the opportunity to engage with you if they choose to do so, acknowledging them, and keeping people “in the loop”.

When I ran an MSP, I became very aware of the fact that we’d take clients on – it was typically when they ‘d been let down by other IT providers, their Infrastructure was in a shambles due to lack of maintenance, and IT was causing lost time and money on a day-to-day basis for their business. After we’d stabilised the situation with pro-active monitoring and maintenance, within months the client would often get to the point where they rarely needed to call upon our services to resolve problems – simply because the problems had ceased to exist. It’s at this stage that they started to question why they were paying for our services at all – after all, everything is now ok, right?

So the realisation dawned that it wasn’t enough to fix problems and proactive prevent others. The business had to be made aware of what we were doing for them, and how it helped them. We sent out Daily Reports, Weekly Summaries, and decision makers received Monthly Executive Summaries. On quiet days, we sent engineers to site to resolve problems that could be dealt with remotely – so we weren’t just a voice the end of a telephone. We regularly met with clients for Business Reviews – not just when there was a problem. Changes such as upgrades and patches were notified to the client in advance, along with reasons and timescales. Requests for support were followed up with regular e-mails and phone calls, both during and after.

Are you communicating well enough?

At times, the only complaint we got was that we “over-communicated”, and that’s a complaint a lot easier to deal with than having to to justify your continued existence to a client during a budget cut.

It doesn’t just apply to Service Delivery either. Ask yourself:-

  • Do your clients know about all the products and services you provide?
  • Do your partners and allies know about your latest successes?
  • Do your prospective clients really know that you can help them with their pain points?

Whether the regular Twitter updates are to continue from Birmingham South Police or not, I’m not sure, but based on the Tweetathon I think those involved at the Police force should consider the experiment a huge success – they’ve re-assured people, and there are around 1,000 local residents (effectively, their “clients”) who now feel connected and acknowledged by their local Police Force.

It’s an experiment that many of us in all walks of business and life could learn from.

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Richard Tubb

I help IT companies grow their businesses in a scalable and sustainable way. My clients are business owners of small to medium sized IT firms. at Tubblog
Why not find out more about how I can help your business. You can also check which events you can find me at or read one of my books.

Comments

  1. Great post Ric and great examples used to demonstrate the importance of communication for any organisation.

  2. What a great idea … I think police forces around the world should take note and perform a similar exercise.

    …and congrats on being Freshly Pressed! Well deserved.

    :)

    • Susanne/Mikalee – thanks for the kind words, glad you enjoy the post! As Susanne says, I think *any* organisation can learn lessons on the importance of communication from Birmingham South Police’s initiative.

  3. it boggles my mind that some people/companies dont see the importance of sites like twitter. thanks for making more people aware…

  4. It was great to actually read a true “Freshly Pressed” post. It seems lately that many of the “Freshly Pressed” posts are becoming advertising tools for the WordPress Program. I, for one, appreciate their many free services as relating to blogs, and always admired their low-keyed approach to the profit side of the their programs. Lately, it seems that low keyed line is being pushed by the selector of “Freshly Pressed” posts. Sad to see that.

  5. Fascinating post–and congrats on being freshly pressed!
    blogging from Haiti,
    Kathy

  6. Such a great idea – I wonder if it will cut down on people using the police for non-emergencies like their cable going out and missing their soap? Most people don’t give the police enough credit for what they do – if this helps in any way – I’m all for it!
    Thanks for the post!

  7. Thanks all for the positive feedback – I’m thrilled to be “Freshly Pressed” today! :-)

    @YouGetWellSoon – I saw lots of posts on #bsp24 (the hash-tag used on Twitter for the day) where the Police were interacting with members of the public over what could be called “low priority” enquiries. If initiatives such as this help to reduce the number of people calling the emergency number with non-emergencies, I’d say that’s got to be a good thing.

  8. I have been on the fence about Twitter, not being sure if it could have a relevant place in the world beyond recording the minute and ridiculous. But the police department showed minute and ridiculous that has relevancy. Thank you for a well done post that connects Twitter to business practices.

  9. J Roycroft says:

    Congrats on FP

  10. Great post Ric and great examples used to demonstrate the importance of communication for any organisation.

  11. patrickjay says:

    Useful reminder of this crucial need of communication! Congrats again on being “Freshly Pressed”!
    Patrick Jay

  12. I think this is example of creative Police…can be model for others…congrats Richard..blogging from Bali Island…
    4 Bedroom villa Seminyak/ Bali Villas/Villas in Bali

  13. It’s good to hear about a real use for Twitter that I can understand. I still don’t understand why it’s suggested for bloggers and such. It seems to only be helpful in continuing relationships with those who are already interested in one’s service.

    • @sparksinshadow Twitter, for me, is a way of connecting with like minded people. For brands and companies, when choosing which medium to make yourself available through to connect with people (Facebook, Twitter, E-Mail, LinkedIn, RSS Feeds, Telephone, Postal) – I think the answer should be “all of them”. Different people choose to engage with you throguh different channels – and you should be open to them all.

      • Right. For brands and companies, even actors and celebrities, I understand how and why Twitter is used. But for the very young blog? I spend most of my free time just putting together my posts!

        • @Sparksinshadow What I do is link my blog to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter – so that when I post a new blog it lets people on those channels know my blog is out there. Then, I respond to Re-Tweets, @ Comments and the like in the same way I respond to blog comments. Twitter is just another way of reaching people, in my opinion.

  14. Very interesting… I guess that, like you said, if it makes people feel safer in their community then it’s gotta be a good idea.

    I wonder if the tweets could actually affect criminal behaviour in any way? If, say, drug dealers kept a tab on police activities to get a feel for when they were coming under particularly close scrutiny?

    Don’t know if something like this is plausible at all, just saying…

    • @Beau – I saw one Tweet that said “If you’re a burglar in the Harborne area – we’re on to you”. Now I’m sure criminals aren’t checking their iPhones to keep track of Police Forces Twitter feeds, but as a member of the public, you can’t help but smile at that Tweet can you? :-)

  15. Dear Sir Richard Tubb,

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    is the best idea and an intelligent one to utilize communication very effectively. I like this idea and I would like to incorporate for the orphanage activities. Please give me permission. This will be a great help for the disabled orphan children. May I request you to spare some time to visit http://www.bvmo.wordpress.com and do not hesitate to post/comment any better ideas.
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  16. (FYI, there is a typo in your first paragraph –know/now.)

    This is a very thought provoking post, and I am very glad it was brought to my attention.

    My family has recently been watching an old (American)television program called “Emergency!”, which I had watched when I was young. I am happy to be able to share it with our children. It was a medical drama highlighting the difficulty of both paramedic work and hospital work — the dangers, stress and abuse that the workers face on a daily basis, and how they get through the day by trying to help as many people as they can.

    As you point out, people just don’t realize what any of their service providers and contractors DO all day, because they can’t see it for themselves. All they know is that they don’t like waiting for their service! Communication can help to solve this problem.

    • @Acleansurface I’m glad you found the blog useful. As you say, sometimes it’s not enough to “do”, you need to communicate that you’re “doing”. (Typo in first paragraph correct – thanks!)

  17. its very interesting

  18. Basic rule of services for clients, really.

    1. Address the need/problem.
    2. If you can’t address the need/problem straight away, explain why clearly.
    3. Tell them what you will be doing and when you will get on track with their problem.
    4. Once your other duties that were delaying you are finished, tackle the problem of the client.
    5. Let them know the solution.

    This is typical for me when I work in a private healthcare clinic as a medical office administrator.

    I think hospitals with long delays should also use this in a way that will not breach patient confidentiality. This is a great initiative by the Police.

  19. Great Ric, you pointed it out: the whole mankind needs to communicate much more. Communication is the only way to solve the global society’s problems.
    Thanks for that. Start and never stop communication with family, friends, colleagues and all the other people you meet. Because without communication we cannot feel safe, when we do not know what the others like to do =)
    You want more about that? Okay, read

    http://globalsocietyblog.wordpress.com/orientation

  20. Great pst chock fill of ideas and why we should communicate with others. Thanks for sharing.

    Blessings,

    Ava
    xox

  21. Congratulations on getting freshly pressed. Communication and acknowledgment go a long way toward achieving happiness.

  22. Seems like I remember the police in our town having a twitter acct. but I haven’t heard anything out of it lately. Maybe it would help with p.r. if the police here tweeted more with the citizens. Anyway a great post.

  23. Youre right that using Twitter to broadcast themselves probably played a major part in influencing how positively people see the police force. I think its a wonderful idea, and more public services should take on this approach.
    I live in Pakistan, and everyone knows how the police force is accused of everything from small-time bribes to large govt-scale corruption. I wish we had a system like this, where the police force could Tweet about what they do all day long, to inspire the public a little, and show that they really do care about the values and principles entrusted to their position.
    Unfortunately we lack the infrastructure and even the education and technical know-how to do so.
    Lovely post :)

    Do check out my blog if you have time!

  24. I think you would get sick to death of it after a while but, yes, policing is diverse and often thankless.

  25. Twitter and other social networds are here. Like it or not, organizations are smart to start figuring out how to use them as part of their business. I work at a school and we’re also embracing Twitter and Facebook to communicate with parents, students, and the community. As part of the younger generation in the workforce, these applications are important to know and be able to use in whatever field you’re in!

  26. Nice post

  27. For those Police Forces that are proactive in using technology to fight crime and keep the public informed, it’s great. Having worked as a consultant delivering technology within KENT Police (UK), I have been fortunate to see the end result, which is a positive impact within the Community.

    Important thing to remember is that technology is only any good if it is embraced by those who will use it, and this does not include the Corporate Directors.

    Congrats on being FP.

  28. Excellent article about communication. Police Forces should use any information (statistical, technological social…) at their disposal.

  29. gvipromote says:

    Fascinating post–and congrats on being freshly pressed!
    blogging from Haiti,
    Kathy

  30. Excellent post and great insight. I will begin using Twitter soon enough.

    Congrats on being FP!

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  3. […] Tim Evans, Tim Godwin, Tweetathon, Twitter It was in January that I wrote a blog post entitled “It’s All About Communication” that described how my local Police force, Birmingham South Police had been hugely successful in […]

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