turning tides

by Hannah Rees

We’re a bit different down in Cornwall. We’re not the sleepy backwater people might have once believed us to be. Since Cornwall Council was formed almost three years ago, things have changed significantly. New leadership, new Members and a new vision has revolutionised the way we do business.  For the comms team, it’s been a gift.

We are a random collection of comms professionals from all sorts of backgrounds – some are ex journalists, some are ex PR’s, some have worked their way round the local government network, we’ve got web lords, designers and expertise in film and animation. Cornwall as you can imagine, lends itself to those who run away from the rat race for a better quality of life (*puts hand up*) and those who are born and bred here, some of which might go to the bright lights of the big smoke, but the draw of this amazing county brings them back eventually. The common denominator is all of us are passionate about Cornwall and about making good communication happen, both internally and externally and helping to turn the reputation of the authority and of Cornwall as a whole, around.

We passionately believe in the communications mix and are set up to deliver it. The comms service covers web, design, marketing, media relations, internal comms and digital media. Although we are not a big team for such a large authority, we are lucky to have experts in each field and of course we work across each other constantly, all day, every day. Co-production is key.

In terms of how that mix works for us in Cornwall, it breaks down like this… Local media still use our press releases and we target national journalists to place specific stories, our website is one of the most used in UK public sector terms and reached 700k visits last month. The work that has been done on our branding and marketing has stamped out over 300 pre unitary sub brands and helps the public associate good services with Cornwall Council, diffusing the old chestnut of “we love our services, but we hate the Council”. Our internal comms channels were started from scratch and our employee e-zine just won a silver award from the CIPR Pride South West. Our employees see our Chief Executive, Kevin Lavery, once a month telling us like it is, via videcast on our intranet (he’ll cover anything from explaining tough choices such as the staff t’s and c’s agreement last year to doing a paper review of the silly season stories in August – don’t ask us about tortoises).  He also gets out to around one building every couple of months for some good old fashioned face to face communication.

So, what of new media? We’ve been pretty lucky in Cornwall in that we are a well respected team and trusted to do our jobs and do them well. There are a few keen individuals (say hello @mattbond1, @_jasonwilliams and @donna_sharpe) as well as me, @hanlrees, who just said “can we?” and the powers that be said “yes”.

We’ve learnt a huge amount from conferences (as many freebies as we can get our hands on!) and forums, namely “just go for it, apologise later if you need to”.  Props have to be given to resources such as comms2point0 and great people who love to share, too many to mention but you know who you are!

Our new media journey is one of webcasting, digital, twitter, facebook and mobile web and over the next few weeks, the trusty team and I will fill you in on what we do and how we do it. It’s not the answer, none of it is, but ideas are what make good things happen, and in Cornwall that’s what we try to do.

Hannah Rees is Communications Manager at Cornwall Council

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