What’s on your plate gives comms leaders a chance to highlight what is going on in their local area. Our latest blog is by Phil Parker, Head of Communications and Public Affairs at Dudley Council. Phil speaks on the challenges and growth of communications as well as some handy advice for beginners.
1) What are the big issues you are working on?
Where do I start?! One of the big, strategic jobs on my plate at the moment is working with the community on setting and agreeing on a branding visual and narrative for Dudley borough as part of work to set a vision for Dudley through to 2030. This is a really exciting piece of work which kicked off following an LGA Peer Review of the authority in early 2017. We are now close to completing the engagement with partners and the general public before we can set our vision and associated branding moving forward. It is important the vision offers hope for an exciting future for borough, whilst building on the rich history and proud past of Dudley, which we like to call ‘the historic capital of the Black Country’.
Meanwhile, we’re currently extremely busy marketing significant new developments in Dudley borough including the new DY5 Enterprise Zone and developing new approaches within our People directorate for children and adults whilst maximising proactive media opportunities ahead of the pre-election purdah period. We also have a full diary of events to manage throughout the year and another significant area of work relates to significantly increasing income through outdoor advertising across the borough.
2) What do you love about your job?
Politically, Dudley Council is currently in No Overall Control. Whilst this working environment brings its challenges, it is one of the parts of the job I love. I would like to think I enjoy positive relationships with politicians of all political persuasions who respect the politically sensitive environment me and my team are working in. In recent years we have needed to be more innovative and operate differently and even more efficiently and I have enjoyed the challenge of re-modelling a Communications and Public Affairs team to ensure we’re well positioned to be the forefront of all key council business. Finally, I am proud to say I was born in Dudley borough and am equally proud to represent my local council as we look to improve the borough for all of our residents.
3) What would you change if you could?
Purely from a communications perspective, the one thing I would change would be to hold a central marketing budget to deliver key campaigns in line with council priorities. This is something I am currently working on with senior management and hope to have a more co-ordinated and strategic approach to campaigns established during 2018.
4) How have things changed since you started in communications?
Wow, now that’s a question... I arrived to work in Dudley Council’s press office in 2005 having previously worked on regional newspaper, the Express & Star as a journalist. At the time the role of the press office and one of the key functions of the communications team was to work proactively (issuing press releases) and reactively (responding to media enquiries) with the local newspapers and radio stations.
Today, the traditional press function has grown out of all recognition with much of our work now focused on digital communications as we handle new social media channels and develop innovative new digital channels including e-bulletins and mobile apps (not to mention our current involvement in supporting the development of a new website and digital platform for the authority!). Meanwhile the scope of the departments work has also grown significantly as I now manage a team with responsibilities for all media, marketing, internal communications, civic affairs (mayor’s office), income generation, town centre events, translation and interpretation and graphic design!
5) What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Given the answer to question 4, I think it’s important for young comms professionals to be as versatile as they can and look to grow multiple skills in this ever-changing and ever-expanding field. From traditional marketing, to digital video production, photography, social media and having a commercial acumen to generate income where possible.
6) What's your ideal weekend?
The journey up the M6 aside, my ideal weekend would be going to Anfield (where I have a season ticket on the Kop) to watch Liverpool win, before spending time with my family (I have two young girls) and seeing my friends to enjoy a pint or two of Bathams... my favourite Black Country real ale!