So, here we are. A few weeks into the new year and already the opportunities and challenges for public sector communications teams in 2018 are becoming clear.
A couple of weeks ago, I was involved in an LGA peer review of a council’s communications function.
The story was all too familiar. The communications team was desperately trying to put itself in its rightful place as a strategic function.
But they weren’t involved in discussions at the highest level and services were still coming every day with requests for posters to be made and press releases to be just sent out. Often with unrealistic deadlines.
Then the Local Government Association announced the results of its annual Heads of Communications survey.
They showed that there is still a long way to go for strategic communications to be considered the norm in local government.
But there are great opportunities to put this right.
I’ve learned this in recent months being part of the LGCommunications Future Leaders programme. A course designed to give a selected group of communicators the skills and knowledge to influence at the top tables of local government organisations.
Programmes like Future Leaders can equip and empower people to get into positions of influence and push for more strategic communications.
That was my reason for applying. I’m really glad I did and that I was selected.
It has given me great insight from communicators, leadership specialists, political leaders and even one of the Cabinet Office’s cats.
But it has also introduced me to my fellow Future Leaders who in a relatively short time have become a great network to call upon for support, advice, problem solving, and the occasional gin.
So what about my hopes for 2018? Firstly, I hope that the connections I’ve made through Future Leaders stay strong and we continue to support each other as we all push towards those heads of communications positions.
But also that movements like this grow nationally. As support networks develop - made easier with social media groups – communicators will feel more empowered in their own organisations to push for good, strategic communications.
I also hope that communications teams are given a chance to prove themselves. I believe we live in a great time to be working in communications. We have so many ways of engaging directly with our audiences. But communications teams need to be given opportunities to learn and be trusted by leaders.
And for those considering taking that step to be a future head of communications who can influence all of the above, I’d thoroughly recommend applying for next year’s Future Leaders programme.
Paul Compton, communications team leader, Dorset Councils Partnership