The future for external comms channels

One of the great challenges of a local government comms person is finding any moment in the day to reflect, and really think strategically about how we can be more effective. How do we stay ahead of the game? How can we get better data and insights to inform our comms? How are channels evolving and changing the way people consume information?

Hold on, how can I just clear my inbox today?!

Staying ahead of the game

The latest LGcomms seminar aimed to help us juggle this perennial challenge, by not only taking a look at the future of external comms channels, but also taking some early steps towards a White Paper outlining how local government communications teams can stay abreast of new developments in reaching our audiences.

That will come later, but the round table discussion last week was a useful starting point.

Hosted by the friendly folk at JCDecaux, colleagues from London boroughs, county councils, the Local Government Association, Sky TV advertising, and Metaverse and ‘Web3’ expert Tiffany St James, all came together to share stories, challenges and solutions.


With interesting prompts from presenters around the table, the discussion turned to how we change our mindset about our traditional, or ‘core’ comms channels.

Do you know how to develop quickly adaptable, targeted campaigns with outdoor advertising? Did you realise how minutely targeted (and cheap!) TV ads can be? Did you ever think about taking that town planning exhibition into the Metaverse or use Virtual Reality, like Surrey County Council did recently? Have you used Whatsapp to get community leaders to spread key messages, like Lewisham did so effectively through the pandemic?

We should all be using data and insights to guide our communications but that doesn’t mean we need to forget the traditional methods, or the ‘old school vinyl’, we just need to transform the way we think about using them.

Art of the possible

To do that, we need to understand the art of the possible, and a challenge back to channel owners and developers is to reach out and share how they can help us adapt our comms planning in local government and take those opportunities to push our activity to the next level.

JCDecaux’s Chris Dooley took us from the traditional poster put up by the guy with a ladder and some wallpaper paste, to current campaigns on programmable digital screens tailored for specific locations and audiences. He even explained a recent augmented reality campaign they delivered in partnership with Amnesty International, with an interactive display in Westfield Stratford City replicating aspects of weapon technology.

We need to work together – with peers, colleagues and businesses like Sky and JCDecaux – to open that regular dialogue, to inform each other and develop solutions that will ultimately get the right content to the right audience, and help councils improve the lives of our residents.

Keep an eye out…

…for more on the White Paper from LGcomms at the forthcoming Academy in November.

Michael Stringer is the Assistant Director for Communications & Engagement at Surrey County Council and a member of the LGcomms Executive Committee.


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