Over the past few weeks and months, there has been an emerging trend in local government communications – this trend has seen a number of really, really good people leave the sector and go onto other very impressive things...
by GUEST EDITOR Emma Rodgers
Now that has probably been a brilliant thing for those people individually but it got me thinking. What do we do when all the good people are gone? How do we attract new talent into local government communications at one of the most challenging times in it’s history? I’m not sure yet of the answer and it would be arrogant of me to think that I could come up with that solution alone. What I did decide though is that I would write down my top five reasons why I believe local government communications is a good place to be and here’s that list. I’m hoping it will spark some views and debate.
We make a difference
Ultimately whether we’re digital, media, marketing or any other specialism, our work makes a difference to people’s lives on a daily basis. It could be recruiting foster carers, updating people on where they can access services, helping to change behaviour or attracting investment that will bring more local jobs. Knowing this gives me a real sense of purpose and motivates me to get up in a morning. And I know I’m not alone in that. Generally most people who work in the public sector are motivated by these values. A friend of mine recently left employment at a council to work in a pr agency. She left after just a few weeks saying she couldn’t buy into what she was doing. That speaks volumes to me.
Change is also an opportunity
So we’re in or on the cusp of some of the biggest changes the sector has ever seen since its inception in the 1940s. Budgets are being slashed, people are being squeezed we’re having to reconsider the new boundaries for the public services. It’s hard, really hard. But….. at the same time, it also provides us with a real chance to effect change for the better and influence how services can look in the future. As the ones who reflect back the voice of the people to the organisation, we can be really directing the future and playing a bigger part than ever in how we do public services in the 21st Century. We can bring new ideas, innovation and solutions for what’s ahead.
We get to hold the mirror up
When I’m asked by people what I do, responses to this have included ‘so you’re the one who communicates that old people’s homes are closing down.’ This sadly is a reflection of the tough times and major changes we’re going through in the sector. But I do take solace from the fact that through what I do, I get to hold the mirror up. My colleagues and I are in a unique position that means we can act as the moral conscience for the organisation – we shine the light where others often are reluctant to go. We are really clear about the impact decisions could have on people and we can speak up for those who can’t necessarily do it for themselves. And for me that’s important.
Local government comms people are ace and we share
One of the most amazing benefits of working in local government comms is the people. Up and down the country, there are others who will have faced the same challenges you have and who are more than willing to share this with you. That’s unique. Not many other sectors would do this and without a doubt if you’re a commercial sector, this wouldn’t happen. My cousin is high up in marketing for a major global consumer company. I asked if I could pick her brain or go and see what was going on. She was clear that it wasn’t allowed. Meanwhile through the brilliant learning networks that are out there for local government, people are more than happy to share. Just one of the many practical examples of this for me was where a question asked for me on twitter by Comms2point0 ended up saving the local authority I worked for £4,000. That just wouldn’t happen elsewhere. Even better there is an awesome movement of innovation and change in local government comms and digital where ideas and new ways of doing comms better are always being shared. Take Localgovcamp last weekend and Commscamp 14 happening in July. Free to attend unconferences where good things stem from. Again that is blooming unique and not something to be sniffed at.
No day is ever the same and you get to try new things
This to me is one of the best things about local government. In previous comms lives, I used to go on cruises or spend time in Mexico and that was my job but heck after a while it was predictable and made me feel soulless. In local government [nearly 10 years on], I can still safely say that no day is ever the same and that keeps me interested and challenged. And for me and others I’ve had great opportunities working in local government going from internal communications to corporate communications to marketing to media to social media. The scope and breadth of what you do is pretty special. You forgot that though. It was only when a new colleague after listening to a conversation about the impact of a major redesign of services that involved staff, partners, MPs, media and residents said to me ‘wow, it’s unbelievable the role comms plays’ that it reminded me of that.
What do you think?
There are other reasons and of course this is down to my own experience. I deliberately haven’t gone into the downsides here but I would really love to hear other people’s reasons as to why they think local government or public sector comms is a good place to be.
I love what UK Government Communications are doing to attract new blood into the sector but I’d also love to hear from others on their thoughts for how we go about attracting fresh talent into comms in Local Government.
Tweet me @Emma Rodgers
Emma Rodgers is Strategic Manager [Communications and Marketing] at Stoke-on-Trent City Council, where they will be shortly recruiting for new communications and digital posts in the coming weeks. Watch @comms2point0 for more details.
pic via Wikipedia Commons