Time to prove your worth in tough times

Public sector communicators are facing the double impact of increased demand for services but with falling budgets, which look set to continue to be squeezed.

Communications can be one of the first services to feel the impact of budget cuts, if the service is not run efficiently and is not seen to be adding value.

Now more than ever it’s vital that communications professionals move away from being overly focused on developing and managing channels of communication and delivering messages – the more traditional communications role- and look to play an active role in policy and decision making and providing strategic advice.

But the current climate offers a golden opportunity for heads of communication to demonstrate the relevance of communications to all the council does.

Some councils have responded proactively and strategically, others have done very little and are missing a trick.
We asked LGcomms members to share what they were doing to ‘prove their worth’.

Sharing our service with the local NHS
Marc Schmid, Head of Communications, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council.
If you want to prove your worth, it is not enough to concentrate on delivering the same service better or for less – you need to take a lead in the wider agenda that your leadership is considering. Proactive proposals in tune with their thinking demonstrate why you should have a place at the top table.
We chose to lead on a shared communications service. Serious efficiencies will not come from trimming existing budgets, but from redesigning services across organisational boundaries, pooling budgets and sharing the greater savings that can be achieved.
The result is an agreement with the NHS Care Trust Plus to create a shared communications function with a clear remit to deliver efficiencies and improvements to the quality and effectiveness of communications. We have delivered £100k in savings but there is a clear expectation that this is just the start.
But you need buy in at the top with a sound business case that makes sense to both organisations, a strategy setting out where you intend to go with this new arrangement and how you will get there. Finally, and importantly in our profession, recognise the significant cultural differences across different organisations, get to grips with them, and don’t assume that it’s as simple as doing in the new organisation what you’ve always done on your own.

Posted on 18th October 2010