24 more pearls of wisdom from lgcomms academy birmingham: day 2

by Dan Slee

Okay, so maybe we should stop pretending things are all great when they're not?

Maybe we should just say that we used to do that but now we don't?

And that we didn't do that thing very well, maybe?

It cuts against the grain of many comms people but that was more or less the bold position of Richard Stokoe from the London Fire Service at the second day of the annual LGComms event.

As a former LGA comms head Richard has hard won experience of looking after the reputation of councils.

To be fair to Richard, this wasn't an out of character attack but more an assessment taken from experience.

What was a key moment in taking this position was when London firefighters went on strike. Instead of more than 120 appliances there were less than 30.

Don't expect the same level of cover, was one of the messages.

What happened?

Emergency calls fell by 30 per cent as people took more care and tested their fire alarms.

We used to do it. We don't anymore. It's a strangely liberating idea for the post-spin comms person and is worth more than out-of-hand dismissal.

All this is just one of the bright ideas worth more than thought that emerged on day two.

One person made the comment that social media was neither 'social' nor 'media' that was then widely retweeted on Twitter inside and outside the event. I'm sure that was just tongue in cheek. Yes, I'm sure it was.

24 bright ideas from the second day of LGComms Academy

1. Comms people will need different skills than they used to.

2. Good relations with every political party is a good idea.

3. It's good to remind people that you work for the organisation and not the political party.

4. Maybe it's a good idea if we told people that we don't do those things anymore? And that we're not as good as we used to be at them?

5. If I had a pound for every time I heard the phrase 'more for less' I'd be very happy.

6. Councils need to tap into the skills and enthusiasm they already have and that's right under their nose.

7.  Understand the difference between management and leadership. Managers plan. Leaders inspire.

8. Follow your politicians on Twitter. You'll better understand what makes them tick.

9. Comms people need to find out what keeps their councillors awake at night.

10. Shooting down rumours in real time if there's a riot - or a chance of one - is a very, very good idea.

11. Five minute presentations can pass very quickly.

12. Infographics are brilliant and will be common place in a few years time. Freelancer Caroline Beavon does them very well.

13. Understanding the #localgov publicity code for a comms person is vital, vital, vital. Keep a copy to hand.

14. On average 70 per cent of staff live in area. Staff are underused resource for things like user testing, customer journey mapping and accessing corporate social media channels.

15. Some chief executives would like you to be straight and tell the truth. It's your job as a comms person to advise. It's down to them to act on it.

16. Advertising goes into a room and says 'I'm great!' while PR says 'See them? They're great, they are.'

17. Emma Maier, editor of LGC, works very hard and spins many plates.

18. There probably needs to be more about the web. Not social media but how the web can help with communications. That was a good observation from Coventry City Council's Ally Hook.

19. Andy Carter from the University of Northumbria is very talented.

20. Richard Stokoe, head of comms at London Fire Service is really quite brilliant.

21. Most people get their idea of PR from pop culture. Just nine per cent of people in the UK have a positive perception of it, Professor Trevor Morris says.

22. There's actually a lot of really good people in local government communications.

23. 51 per cent of BBC staff are based outside London.

24. It would be great to have an unconference element.