what, public health as well? five tips to survive and thrive

If you work in local government comms you're probably beginning to worry about how you are going to deliver public health comms, what with everything else you have to do.

by Darren Caveney

Local government comms folk have just landed themselves with a shiny new portfolio of work in the shape of public health.

The words used to describe this new role, by colleagues I've spoken to, include; "fear", "confusion", "concern" and "opportunity." It really depends upon your point of view. But without a doubt it is going to place extra pressure on already toiling teams.

So the chance to attend an LGcomms briefing on the transition of public health to local authority world was both timely and helpful. The idea of Andy Allsop, the event included a fascinating insight into the transition by Coventry City Council's impressive chief executive, Martin Reeves.

Martin's steer for communicators was plain and simple - and it could just form the basis of your outline comms plan, its vision, and most importantly your mindset...

1. Resources. Forget about it, you'll probably get nothing.

2. View this change as an opportunity

3. Focus on telling compelling stories: be radical, get to the heart of the conversation but don't fall into the trap of using public health jargon.

4. Begin with a challengingcomms campaign to get you up and running

5. Don't get hung up on the tactics and logistics of how we do it. That should come in chapter two or three. Chapter One should begin with that narrative, the bold approach and framing the opportunity to our leaders and senior managers.

This was typically blunt advice. And we should take it in the spirit it was meant.

But when you cast an eye around the comms battlefield which is the office on a typical busy and vibrant Monday morning and you wonder who can answer the phone, never mind who can deliver public health comms too. Something has to give. And it has to give with or without public health transferring, actually.

It's time for us to radically review and reframe what we do as comms team. It's the only way we'll survive and prosper. Comms teams of the future will be smaller, have no marketing budgets and be paperless in terms of promotional collateral.

Like it or not, digital and social media will continue to increase in terms of use and importance. Yes, yes, that won't reach all of our customers. But nor does the local newspaper so let's lay that to rest early on in this new challenge. Radical isn't hundreds of press releases to an evaporating local press . It isn't expensive campaigns slapped onto the back of buses. And it isn't having school children designing some horrible new logo for a public health campaign.

If it's really about getting to the heart of conversations then the stragegy needs to be social, both of the digital and the face-to-face varieties. 

And if we get all of this right, the narratives which Martin Reeves talks about could help us to instil new levels of trust in local authorities.

But it won't be easy. In fact it will be hard.

Darren Caveney is co-creator of comms2point0 and vice chair of LGComms

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