The Local Government Association has provided some very useful resources to communicators in the last couple of years. An all-new devolution communications good practice guide is the latest addition which you should take a look at.
by David Holdstock
It seems like at the moment, you can’t move for devolution developments. Whether it’s news of councils taking their first tentative steps towards sharing services or a combined authority, or seemingly solid deals shifting, devolution seems to be taking up almost as many column inches as Brexit, ‘Hiddleswift’ and more recently ‘Brangelina’.
For us communications folk, it’s a hugely challenging time. Not only do we need to help our leaders and chief executives to tell their particular devolution story, we’ve also got to help residents wade through the detail and inspire our staff to work differently and yet still keep delivering. It’s not easy, and with the landscape changing almost as quickly as you can tweet about it (I’m a little slower than most), it’s becoming a full-time job just to keep up.
Earlier this year, we took our ‘devo comms’ roadshow out on tour. Hosting a series of roundtables around the country, we gathered together communicators who are at all stages of the devolution life-cycle – from done deals to no deals. What was clear was there is already a lot of great work going on.
From those sessions, we have developed a new devolution communications good practice guide full of hints and tips to help council communicators navigate through everything from developing a devolution communications strategy to building a compelling narrative.
Complementing this advice are a number of case studies exploring how councils have tackled the issue of communicating devolution in their areas and the lessons they have learned from the process. The guide also includes models that some have adopted for ensuring the effective delivery of communications within their new combined authorities.
While the specifics of deals will differ significantly across different areas, many of the basic principles hold true wherever you are.
The absolute key to effective devolution communication is that it has to be driven by the political and managerial leadership. Of course, this should come as no surprise as any good strategic communications should be delivered in this way. It is even more important when it comes to devolution as this involves working across organisation and geographical boundaries. While we as communication professionals can help to shape the strategy, it will only work with buy-in at the most senior level. Creating a devolution communications strategy is a vital part of ensuring that organisation buy-in. You can find some suggestions for points to consider when developing your own strategy here.
Once you have the commitment to the strategy, the next step is to develop your story. A strong and compelling narrative is just as important in the context of devolution as it is for your council and your place. All of our audiences need to understand how it will affect them, why it’s worth doing and how they can get involved.
In amongst all of these considerations, we also need to think about how communications teams will need to adapt to new ways of working. I have said for the last few years to anyone who has cared to listen (thank you to all of you who have kindly done so) that we are heading towards the creation of local public service communications hubs, based in areas. Whilst the model may not exactly match that, we will need to continue to develop our partnership working.
I hope this new resource will be helpful. As things are moving so quickly, it is not intended to be definitive and we’ll be continuing to update the content as things develop. If you have some great work that you’re already delivering or ideas for future content please do get in touch.
David Holdstock is director of communications at the local government association
image via The Library of Congress