There's always things to learn at an event. The lgcomms event at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff was no exception. For an audience of local government comms people there's plenty for all to learn.
by Emma Rodgers
Ok – first thing to admit, I missed the first three sessions. I’m gutted about that but I heard it was good… in fact the best yet.
From the sessions I was at, I learnt lots and know colleagues did too. For those who weren’t there, here are the top 20 things I learnt from day one of the LG Communications Academy.
- Jason Wakeford from the Environment Agency talked about the success of their Twibbon #floodaware and how it could be used really well across a variety of channels. They had lots of success going to where the conversations were and placing on major news channels.
- When looking at likely emergencies top advice is ‘think big, act early & stick to simple consistent key messages with a clear call to action’
- Some startling facts from LGA Chair Sir Merrick Cockell – 86 councils nationwide will be short of 15pm for every 100p that they spend. Others will be short of more than that. Local government communications role is to communicate this new reality to residents.
- Future gazing: The reality for Local government communications in 10 years is that we’ll be communicating about a full range of public services [including fire, police and local government] all accessed around place.
- No. 5 came out again and again across the day. Our role is about listening and not BROADCAST.
- There are a lot of people doing good things outside the communication team and this is a good answer to the ‘not enough resources’ problem. Embrace this with learning and support.
- It’s all about the trust – building it with your communities, with your staff, within your team [see the 2013 Edleman Trust Barometer at: www.edelman.com/insights/intellectual - the largest exploration of trust which included 31,000 respondents in 26 markets around the work and measured their trust in institutions, industries and leaders].
- People don’t know what we do and we need to address this. Similarly to no. 5 on this list this came out again and again across the day.
- On social media – it was generally agreed that if we devolve and share the sweets, then we’re effectively proofing our roles for the future. That being said:
- - It’s about being real
- - Having a clear strategy and objectives
- - Using it with the right audience in the right way at the right time
- - But we have to be careful that we don’t create more noise and become an irritation.
- Top advice for when you need to cut your comms budget. Stick to what people want to know – keep it simple and from their point of view, not ours. Significantly move from communications guidelines to policy in every area – from branding to reputational issues to major investment. No more mr nice guy comms and think about dropping resident’s magazines if the case is strong enough locally. Use personalised communications like letters instead.
- Pilots and evidence are critical in all that you do – even if they are only small they build a much needed case for convincing senior leadership and for building trust with residents and others.
- Old sayings made regular outings but made sense – it’s not what you’ve got, it’s how you use it; content is king, etc.
- There are really great opportunities for link ups on communications between local and central government. Opportunities include cross promotion of priorities: Jobs & growth, Holidaying in the UK & SME promotion [Great Britain campaign], Value for money, empowering citizens and neighbourhoods, Housing support, Campaigns [including Right to Buy, going digital with gov.uk & Fire kills].
- Mark Chataway told some compelling stories linked to behaviour and perception change especially with our new remit of public health. Hearing about making condoms socially acceptable in Thailand and a restaurant called Cabbage and condoms was not something I expected to hear about but one I’ll now never forget. In essence – we need to be ambitious and make it difficult to opt out, not opt in.
- Top advice from Doug Hewett – local government is about communities, rallying our people behind our purpose, knowing our audiences and having a signature hallmark. Brilliant examples of Patagonia advertising people selling their goods secondhand on EBay and Burberry allowing staff to take photos of new collections as soon as they’re in stock.
- There are still Gov.uk ‘really useful days’ up for grabs looking at gov.uk work, top tips & support. Check them out now.
- The two social media panels I went to were brilliant and got the crowd going, no mean feat given the late slots in the day. This came down to the diversity and quality of the panels [Dan Slee, Eddie Coates-Madden, Sarah Williams to name just three] and the passion of the attendees.
- Overall the speakers I saw were good quality and really passionate about what they did .. .and it showed. I especially liked Doug Hewett from People Made who has a strong background of local government communications & Mark Chataway who wants more people to speak Welsh but also knows a hell of a lot about public health around the globe.
- It was great to see private sector comparisons and to hear that in some councils, we are ahead on social media. I think from day one it was clear that one of the public sector’s biggest asset is…. ‘us’ the people who work in it. We share ideas openly and help each other to get better and collaborate and that was really true on day 1 and also is quite unique.
- And if you do one thing from this blog… courtesy of Doug Hewett, check out the brilliant video of the Lithuanian major who takes action against illegal parking as it will make you laugh. It’s on Youtube here.
Emma Rodgers is senior campaigns officer at Staffordshire County Council.