People power – how we live through the permacrisis

Permacrisis was recently announced as the Collins Dictionary’s word of the year for 2022. A permacrisis is defined as “an extended period of instability and insecurity”.

This resonates with our annual conference theme “Crisis – the new normal for public service communications?”. Last week’s LGcomms Academy was a time to consider the rolling crises that we’re now often expected to manage 24/7 and go beyond to think about the new normal we want for ourselves, our teams and our industry.

Delegates from around the UK headed to our first in person annual conference for three years on Wednesday 30 November. It’s the first time I’ve organised an in person offer because 2021 and 2020’s Academies were virtual only.

It was excellent to be back in a room together for shared learning and networking. I was able to meet some of my long term LGcomms friends for the first time and many new friendships were forged by those present throughout the day. The in person event was held at the Westminster offices of our partners, the LGA, with an online streamed offer was available for those unable to join us in London.

We had an amazing line up of speakers sharing their skills and expertise. The rooms were buzzing with an atmosphere of positivity. Online delegates were letting us know on social media they felt part of the action.

Lee Cain opened the first session with insight into his experience as former Director of Communications at No. 10. Lee shared the key advice that powerful communications come from prioritisation, simplification and repetition.

Kim Sklinar explored empathetic crisis communication and ethical values from her perspective as a communications professional and a Ukrainian woman living in the UK. Her presentation was emotional and empowering (as is her blog from when the invasion began in February which is well worth a read).

A sure fire hit of the day was the session on diversity and inclusion. Nana Crawford from the British Red Cross spoke with passion and great wit about the work her organisation is doing to tackle racism, why it’s important we all speak out when we see prejudice and the VIBE we should all have when it comes to representation (Visible, Identity, Belonging and Embrace). In the second half of this session Sagar Sharma, Head of Communications for Hounslow, spoke about the barriers caused by socio economic challenges and how decision makers need to pay attention to people with lived experience. Sagar’s words chimed with the findings of the LGcomms diversity survey from earlier in the year which saw more than 700 responses, the outcomes from our survey will be shared in the New Year.

Nicky Old, director of communications for the LGA, led the session on the cost of living crisis, including a core message that we need to be alert to how stigma can play a part in preventing people seeking help in our communities and in our own teams.

Gareth Bell and Tom Horn’s presented the plans to introduce a four-day working week at South Cambridgeshire District Council. This drew the most questions of the day from the floor. We’ll all be watching with interest to see how the trial goes.

The final session from the main stage was delivered by communications consultant Mark Fletcher-Brown and the founder of the global talent advisory firm Green Park, Raj Tulsiani. Amid a wide range of advice on how communications professionals can influence senior leaders, quick tips included seeking ways to position yourself as a good thing and making sure you know what success looks like for your leader. 

Mark stayed on stage to present our Future Leaders 2022 cohort with their certificates to celebrate the completion of their programme. Congratulations class of 2022.

The in person afternoon breakout workshops covered the topics of campaigns, wellbeing, future channel use, TikTok and even a whistlestop tour of how Eurovision is coming to Liverpool and what Leeds 2023 will do for culture in the city. Many breakout discussions are already feeding into LGcomms seminar offer for the year ahead and have sparked collaborative projects.

The final session of the day was led by my co-Chair Andy Allsop and featured a round-up of the event’s learning plus a look ahead to the future (Andy has blogged about this).

The full programme can still be seen on our website and presentations as well.

All of the LGcomms committee would like to say a huge thank you to Academy 2022’s inspirational speakers for their time and energy, the LGcomms Academy organising team, CJAM and LGA colleagues for their event management, and our commercial partners for their ongoing support. Finally, a huge thank you to all our members who joined us on the day in person and online, together we will continue to raise standards in public sector communications. Do join us again next year, when hopefully the permacrisis will be over.

Alix Macfarlane, Joint Chair of LGcomms


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