So, what happens when services are done by others? Do you stop communicating? Actually, no. You keep at it. But the role of the corporate comms team will change.
by Emma Rodgers
Across the country, local government is all under the same strain – to save money and improve services. Some of the action taken has seen traditional salami slicing and others have taken a more radical approach.
And as a result more councils are deciding to commission services, moving away from traditional provision for obvious reasons.
In Staffordshire, we’ve put in place a new way of working - one which is focussed on commissioning the right service in the right place at the right time.
So what are the implications for communications?
Everyone knows higher resident satisfaction directly links to feeling informed. Knowing what services are on offer, what the council is doing for me and making sure you’re giving me value for money are the reasons quoted when residents say what helps them to feel informed.
So what does being a commissioner of services mean for local authority communications teams when it’s a challenge keeping residents informed of services when we’re actually providing them? It becomes even more tricky when reputationally things go wrong - you can be sure the local authority gets recognition then.
For marketing services especially it can be a showstopper.
And as democratic organisations, it goes without saying that politicians have strong views on this.
Do we become a hard core enforcer of branding, who threatens to withdraw funding if the local authority doesn’t get recognition or is that a step too far?
We’re working through what it means for comms here but this seems to be a debate that will continue to rage in 2013 and beyond.
Emma Rodgers is senior campaigns officer at Staffordshire County Council.
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