Finding words when there are none

Manchester Evening News CoverThe horrific events of Monday evening in Manchester have torn lives apart for countless families and in the middle of this but in the background, unseen communicators will face their own battles.

While the ranks of media fill their schedules, and the country wants to find out more and more, public sector press officers representing the blue light services, the NHS, the Government and others, try and maintain ‘business as usual’ at the same time as dealing with the aftermath of the single worst thing they will experience in their careers.

Instinctively they will work all hours under the sun. They will do all they can and more to support frontline staff. They will talk with families in the middle of grief beyond anyone can imagine, brokering interviews which will form part of the healing process, and protecting those most vulnerable from intrusion.

There is no training course for the emotion. But – they will have a been a key part of preparing the crisis communications plan and when it matters most, making sure it happens.

Public sector communicators are typically derided as ‘pen pushers’; singled out by misinformed, malign individuals.

Every hour a communicator puts in is another hour a police officer, a surgeon, a nurse, an investigator, can get on with their real job.

In Manchester they are earning every penny and then some.

Those responsible for them need to ensure they themselves are supported. Mental resilience is key, the ability to share experiences, talk and find a way through. They need to find words to talk through what is going on, even when it seems there are none left.

That way they will take these horrendous experiences with them and be able to help others who might be find themselves caught in the middle of their own nightmare, continuing to serve the public good.

When the media circus moves on, they will still be there, living and working in the communities for the long term.

By definition, communicators cannot be the story. Nor would they want it to be, especially in circumstances as appalling as these.

Yet their unseen professionalism has played a key role in helping us all understand the enormity of what has happened - and the way in which public services have, once again, risen to the scale of that challenge.