lessons from the LGcomms Academy

Now that the dust has settled on a very successful LGcomms Academy in Cardiff it's a good time to reflect on the many lessons to spin out of a packed second day.

by Emma Rodgers

DAY 2 at the LGCommunications conference brought sunshine and even more quality speakers. Some attendees argued it was even better than day 1 and with a diverse agenda ranging from measles, moving to your next comms job to a slot from the top man in government communications Alex Aiken, it was a pretty good mix. 

Here’s what I learnt in no particular order.

  1. Martin Reeves is revered in local government and he gives a rousing speech that motivates. He’s President of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives [SOLACE] and is passionate about the crucial role of communications to support the financial reality that local government is in.
  2. Martin’s clear that Trust is the new reputation, it’s all about place and not organisations and social media is another communications channel that helps us do what we need to. Top quotes included ‘Just get on and do it’, ‘bring it on’, ‘stop doing at and do with’ and ‘whose place is it anyway?’
  3. To tell our new stories well, we need to mobilise narrators and chief narrators.    
  4. I must go to the Godiva Festival one day – it’s the biggest free music festival in the UK and it’s held in Coventry.
  5. Chris Lines knows Public Health – pretty much every year since 2005, there’s been a public health outbreak.
  6. Public Health Wales knew the measles outbreak was coming. Their strategy was to raise the number of people who get vaccinated for MMR and it’s worked.
  7. If you have four people in your media team and they’re all off at the same time when you’re in the middle of one of the biggest crisis for your organisation, then you need a back up plan.
  8. Russell Grossman, Director of Communications from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills is a tip top speaker. If it was a gig, the crowd would have been moshing.
  9. His views about engaging managers [not engaged managers it seems as it’s actually very different] and why it’s so important for councils brought strong agreement and comes when worker insecurity has hit a 20 year high [Financial Times – March 2013]
  10. There is lots of really useful stuff you can rifle through on www.engageforsuccess.org.
  11.  The true test of a successful narrative is if it’s being used four months later. Any word in your narrative that’s longer than 6/7 letters shouldn’t be used.
  12. Every day, you can shine a light or cast a shadow – choose what you are going to do.
  13. Evaluation has to be done at the beginning, in the middle and at the end. It’s not an optional extra according to Sean Larkins and central government’s new evaluation guide. Described as ‘best in show’ by Alex Aiken, the guide’s available on-line and you can give your views on what you think of it.
  14. The Right Honorable Alan Johnson MP has interesting and humorous stories to tell from his 16 years as an MP in Hull. When you’re in a meeting that matters, be it with a Minister or an MP, make it count - prepare, research and get your pitch right. This advice can be applied to dealing with all senior leaders too.
  15.  Terry McDougall head hunts Local Authority Chief Executives so knows her stuff when it comes to recruitment and …. she had a 3D image of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  She also told funny stories which made us laugh.
  16. Terry gave advice for every communications person in these tough times: be visible and proactive, go for team awards, innovate in tight financial environments, treat yourself as a brand and think about what you can do personally to get noticed. Keep comms on the agenda and plan your next move after working out where your gaps and strengths are and how you’ll fill them.
  17. Listening came up again and again and was mentioned by most speakers over the last two days. There is no longer a place for broadcast, it’s about hearing what others have to say or as Alex Aiken said it’s not about deference any more; it’s about reference to friends, families and others.  
  18. There were also two references on day2 to the invisible man from both Russell Grossman and Terry McDougall. That brings the total up to three across the conference. All meant the same: be seen and make a difference. Even if it’s only when passing your boss in the toilet according to Russell, every opportunity is a chance to make your mark.
  19. Alex Aiken showed a video about girls putting on make up and gave out chocolate – not the expected start to his session but it really got the point across about leadership and his mission for exceptional communications [through integrated, efficient and effective comms]. ROSIE [Research, Objectives, Strategy, Implementation and Evaluation] and less sending out of stuff [SOS] can help make this happen.
  20. Final word of the day goes to the Trust campaign currently being consulted on by LGA, LGComms & Solace. You can give your views on any of their sites.

Emma Rodgers is Senior Campaigns Officer at Staffordshire County Council

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