From time to time, we manage to lift our heads from the business as usual and get an opportunity to do some forward thinking in an innovative environment.
One such occasion for me was the Government Communication Service Comms Academy I was fortunate enough to attend in Manchester this June.
What a fantastic event. As well as leaving me on occasion stunned and positively excited about the evolution of comms and how much there is to learn and implement, it was fantastic to spend time with both local and central government colleagues.
There was a massive amount of takeaways from the event but below are some of the most pertinent ones for fellow comms professionals that I came away determined to act upon.
- Evaluation, evaluation, evaluation. All our work needs to show a measure of outcome (not output), what was the result of this, what behaviour did it help to change.
- Work to increase our robustness, show what value we bring and share this throughout the organisation. We have a duty and responsibility to promote, explain and justify things to the Administration and we should never forget that. However, we need to also work harder to forge links and show value with opposition politicians as well as with the Administration.
- Have more confidence in our brand – Cornwall is a great product. Brands today want to look like they’re making a social contribution. Let’s help them by aligning ourselves more with the Cornwall brand.
- Build powerful partnerships. Local is key. We need to start where people lead their lives. Move from an issue/service based model to a place-based model where people decide what they want. Identify their passions and recognise their ‘sweat equity’ through match funding to give them what they want. Stops citizens pitting themselves against each other and encourages working together for social change.
- Renegotiate the social contract: 1) What is it people in local communities are best placed to do themselves to create better lives, 2) what is it people can do with some help from us, 3) What’s left for us – to do unilaterally. We have been treating these in reverse for too long.
- Not just locally but nationally too. Work closer with Central Government colleagues and GCS and use the tools and guidance they provide to establish a common set of standards in line with national development. It’s clear they’re trying to forge links and are creating tools to help us – let’s use them.
- Internal comms is a cornerstone of organisational change. Connect better with our line managers who are key advocates.
- If a piece of content has no value towards our strategic and corporate priorities then don’t do it. It’s really time to cut out the jargon. Stop eight page reports that politicians don’t read. Instead do it in a two page executive summary and then add appendices.
- Let’s work to make communications teams more professional and establish clear development opportunities.
- Be authentic and tell stories that have human scale. Give citizens what they want, not what we think they want. Create content that captures those Moments that Matter; use the data it provides to Make Better Decisions and then constantly innovate and improve on this.
- Learn more about behaviours to drive good comms. Attitudes don’t change behaviours; behaviours change behaviours.
- The world is changing. Technology is changing. People are changing. But, if we think the pace of technological change is fast now, we are wrong. In actual fact, the pace of change will never again be as slow as it is now. We need to make the most of this current ‘hiatus’ to learn as much about it as possible and for its potential to help us communicate better.
- PRIDE! Above all, be proud of what we do as professional communicators. Start making more efforts to run our comms as a business. Consider establishing a commercial team to look into this. Establish an a la carte menu of services we offer and can sell. Look at our comms channels and see how to monetise them (website advertising, lamppost ads, neighbourhood guides, ads in A-Z of services)