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There’s never been a better time to work in local government communications. Here’s why…

Hello, you lovely people. You ok?

Who’s that dude who sang ‘Reasons to be cheerful…’?

Ian Dury. That’s it! Quality songwriter…Ian Dury and the Blockheads. (He also sang about rhythm sticks, but let’s not go there…).

At a recent LGComms Future Leaders virtual gathering, myself and other colleagues met with Peter Fleming, Leader of Sevenoaks District Council, together with David Holdstock and Matt Nicholls from the Local Government Association (LGA) to discuss all things communications.

Peter, Chair of the LGA’s Improvement & Innovation Board and a passionate advocate of communications, spoke about the need to make connections with residents as people. “We (local authorities) are people to people organisations. We need to realise the importance of these relationships and demonstrate you (as communicators) can be of help”.

Peter gave a great example of a successful campaign run by a local authority around foster carers*.     

Reasons to be cheerful #1

When done right, you as a professional communicator have the capacity to change someone’s life for the better – see above*. Build conversations and narratives that speak to people as human beings. What happens on people’s doorsteps matter most to them. Reach out and make those connections. I’m lucky. I live and work in the same district. I’m emotionally invested in the work I do because it affects my life and the life of my family.

David, the LGA’s Director of Communications and currently interim director of communications at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), held a discussion about how the tired, traditional ‘brand’ and image of councils – computer says no, bureaucracy-laden indecision makers – has been replaced by the good work councils have done around COVID.

According to the Local Government Association (LGA), people’s satisfaction in local government is at an all-time high. Which is good, right? Damn right. During the past 12 months, local authorities have been at the coalface helping residents and businesses cope with the effects of COVID.

Reasons to be cheerful #2

As communications experts, you now have the opportunity to help shape the future direction of your organisation, the staff who work there and the communities they represent as we all start to plan life with COVID. Engage with those communities and find out what matters to them. From an internal communications perspective, staff wellbeing and good, lasting metal health will be of key importance. There’s a direct link between the more informed residents/staff are, the more satisfied they are.

Finally, Matt Nicolls, Head of Communications Improvement at the LGA, gave a short presentation on the communications support the LGA offers. Whether that’s best practice guides and case studies, or webinars and guidance and resource papers. The LGA has got you covered.

And if you’ve haven’t taken up the offer of a comms health check, please do so. Whether it’s a free one-day health check or costed three-day review, they are well worth exploring.

Reasons to be cheerful #3

The communications team down at Smith Square are a fantastic support to each and every communications professional working in local government. If you’ve hadn’t yet reached out to them, I urge you to do so. I never fail to be impressed by how communications professionals working in local government help and support each other. Whether it’s the Public Sector Comms Headspace group on Facebook, Darren Caveney over at Comms2Point0 or LGComms…there’s support out there. Use it.

I’d like to say a heartfelt thanks to Peter, David and Matt who put a real spring in my step after the meeting – and I’m sure other colleagues’ steps were sprung too.

Finally, I’d like end with this. The year before last there was a Future Leaders cohort. As there was the year before that and the year before that. There will also be a Future Leaders cohort next year, and the year following that. All of us who work in local government are leaders – and we owe it to the profession and to those communication professionals of the future to look to a career in local government. No two days are the same and no challenge is the same as the last one.

I plan to spend some of this year championing local government communications as a future career for those leaving school, college, or university. Why? Well, I can’t think of a better career to be in. Can you?

Shaun Gibbons is the Communications Manager at South Holland District Council and one of the participants in the 2021 Future Leaders programme.


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