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Managing Strategic Communications in the public sector


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Lecture I was invited to deliver to MSc Public Relations students at Manchester Metropolitan University students in March 2009

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Managing Strategic Communications in the public sector

  1. 1. Lecture delivered to MMU MSc Public Relations students in 2009 Ronnie Semley Communications and Media Manager STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR
  2. 2. Overview <ul><li>Background to strategic comms approach in Bolton – quick overview </li></ul><ul><li>How we manage our strategic comms – detail – including reputation management internal communications and media management </li></ul><ul><li>Examine the issues, challenges and opportunities of strategic comms </li></ul><ul><li>Background to the Bolton Brand </li></ul><ul><li>Key aims and priorities DVD </li></ul>
  3. 3. Communications and Marketing Agency <ul><li>shared service created in 2006 </li></ul><ul><li>brief to drive greater efficiencies </li></ul><ul><li>aimed to boost the profile of Bolton through development of the Bolton brand </li></ul><ul><li>four core teams to deliver this remit </li></ul>
  4. 4. Previously … <ul><li>Scattered staff in departments and one corporate unit </li></ul><ul><li>Restructure of the council was catalyst </li></ul><ul><li>‘ One council’ approach </li></ul><ul><li>Decision to create the Communications and Marketing Agency taken in 2005 </li></ul><ul><li>A year in development and implementation </li></ul><ul><li>Brand strategy created alongside Agency </li></ul><ul><li>Agency: ‘Home for the brand’ </li></ul>
  5. 5. The teams <ul><li>Consultation and research </li></ul><ul><li>Marketing </li></ul><ul><li>Communications and media </li></ul><ul><li>Marketing Bolton </li></ul>
  6. 6. Agency structure Assistant Director Consultation Manager Manager: Marketing Bolton Marketing Manager Comms & Media Manager All primary consultation, including key projects such as gen residents survey and BME survey Managing panels and focus groups including citizens panel,young people’s panel and council staff panel Consultation database management AGMA research group chair Officers assigned to depts All marketing for Env Services and D&R departments Commercial development, including sponsorship Partners marketing and branding Events shared service and business plan Tourism marketing Town centre marketing Officers assigned to depts All marketing for Adults, Childrens and Corporate departments Management of council design team Responsibility for Agency procurement systems and preferred suppliers tender Lead BSF marcoms Officers assigned to depts All media relations and media strategy – press office management Corporate publications, including Bolton Scene Internal communications, including intranet Press officers assigned to depts
  7. 7. Factors contributing to our success <ul><li>Brand </li></ul><ul><li>Consistent experienced management team </li></ul><ul><li>New Chief Executive </li></ul><ul><li>Council restructure </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Place’ agenda </li></ul><ul><li>Leadership, partnership and reputation agendas </li></ul><ul><li>Right move at the right time </li></ul><ul><li>The element of luck! </li></ul><ul><li>A lot of hard work </li></ul>
  8. 8. A brand for Bolton
  9. 9. Brand development and positive recognition
  10. 10. Great things about Bolton – what people say <ul><li>We consulted widely before developing the brand with </li></ul><ul><li>people who live, work, visit Bolton. Findings were that </li></ul><ul><li>Bolton has: </li></ul><ul><li>a sense of place and of history </li></ul><ul><li>a history of affluence with a great Victorian heritage </li></ul><ul><li>a tradition of great humour </li></ul><ul><li>inclusive and welcoming people </li></ul><ul><li>ambition for the future </li></ul>
  11. 11. Bolton’s brand values <ul><li>Open </li></ul><ul><li>Friendly, welcoming, inclusive </li></ul><ul><li>Colourful </li></ul><ul><li>Characterful, distinctive, interesting </li></ul><ul><li>Sound </li></ul><ul><li>Decent, reliable, trustworthy </li></ul><ul><li>Bolton’s brand essence… ‘family’ </li></ul><ul><li>(Tone of voice) </li></ul>
  12. 12. What the brand means for Council staff <ul><li>Consistent, clear communications drive positive perceptions of our organisation </li></ul><ul><li>Changes how we feel about ourselves </li></ul>
  13. 13. What the brand means for Bolton people <ul><li>Builds a sense of ‘place’ </li></ul><ul><li>Builds a sense of community ‘The Bolton Family’ </li></ul><ul><li>Brings in the ‘big players’ from industry and commerce </li></ul><ul><li>Helps to create jobs for local people </li></ul><ul><li>Gives Bolton a strong identity which people relate to and </li></ul><ul><li>want to visit, work, play and learn here </li></ul>
  14. 18. The brand at work… …welcoming and gives Bolton an identity
  15. 22. Hospitable Bolton…
  16. 24. The brand helps communicate internally and externally…
  17. 27. The brand promotes council services and celebrates Bolton’s diverse community…
  18. 30. Strategic communications – our approach <ul><li>A strategic communications management approach encompassing three key areas … </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Corporate Publications </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Internal Communications </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Media Team (press office) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Taking account of … </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Reputation management </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Media management and monitoring </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Forward planning; issues management </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Two-way internal communications </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Efficiencies and evaluation (vital for winning hearts and minds) </li></ul></ul>
  19. 31. Key planning tools <ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>From: Communications and Marketing Agency (Mar 6) </li></ul><ul><li>The following stories about Bolton Council have appeared recently in the local, regional and national media. </li></ul><ul><li>Main story of the week: </li></ul><ul><li>Bolton Evening News: Council gets four stars for service (Mar 5) </li></ul><ul><li>The Bolton News: </li></ul><ul><li>          Council scoops awards (Mar 5) </li></ul><ul><li>          Top class campus given go-ahead (Mar 5) </li></ul><ul><li>          Go ahead for £82.9m schools plan (Mar 4) </li></ul><ul><li>          Street art up for national honour (Mar 2) </li></ul><ul><li>          Gateway gallery plan (Feb 28) </li></ul><ul><li>          What a show at the museum (Feb 28) </li></ul><ul><li>Manchester Evening News: </li></ul><ul><li>‘Honour shot soldiers’ (Mar 6) </li></ul><ul><li>£90m for ‘innovation zone’ colleges (Mar 6) </li></ul>
  20. 32. <ul><li>Our councils are stars of town hall league table (Mar 5) </li></ul><ul><li>Other regional and national news: </li></ul><ul><li> Bolton Council wins Beacon award for housing services (Mar 4) </li></ul><ul><li>Crain’s Business Manchester: Bolton MBC to exhibit at MIPIM (Mar 3) </li></ul><ul><li>Health Club Management: Bolton relocates leisure provision (Feb 27) </li></ul><ul><li>Bolton press releases </li></ul><ul><li>The following press release is one of those issued about Bolton Council and its partners over the last week. </li></ul><ul><li>All press releases are detailed in full on our website </li></ul><ul><li>Click on the link to view a copy of the full release: </li></ul><ul><li>          Free advice from new Business Bolton website </li></ul><ul><li>          School’s investment plans to continue </li></ul><ul><li>          Plans to improve pedestrian crossing at busy junction </li></ul><ul><li>          Young people get involved in play areas </li></ul><ul><li>Bolton enquiries </li></ul><ul><li>The following enquiries are a selection of those received by the press office during the last week: </li></ul><ul><li>          School admissions </li></ul><ul><li>          Private James Smith </li></ul><ul><li>          Lillian Hamer </li></ul><ul><li>Bolton issues monitor </li></ul><ul><li>The following stories and issues have appeared in the national media this week and may affect Bolton Council and Bolton. </li></ul><ul><li>Click on the link to view a copy of the full story: </li></ul><ul><li>Warning of primary places crisis Thousands of four and five-year-olds in England could be without a primary school place in the next six years, it is suggested </li></ul><ul><li>BBC </li></ul><ul><li>Schools 'flouting rules to pick pupils by family backgrounds' Schools have been accused of flouting Labour's rules on admissions as figures showed thousands of pupils failed to get preferred places this year </li></ul><ul><li>Telegraph, pg 8 </li></ul><ul><li>We’d love to hear your views! If you have any comments or questions, or anything you would like to see included in this bulletin, please contact Leena Chauhan, </li></ul><ul><li>Communications Support Officer on 01204 332238 or email [email_address] </li></ul>
  21. 33. Some other tools <ul><li>Bolton Summed Up – coverage by … </li></ul><ul><ul><li>publication </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>tone </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>EAV </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>position </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Agency forward plan, including timelines </li></ul><ul><li>Efficiencies document </li></ul>
  22. 34. Strategic communications – our approach <ul><li>Seat at the top table/new chief executive </li></ul><ul><li>Understanding the vision </li></ul><ul><li>Making it real to people – internal and external </li></ul><ul><li>Silo working to ‘one council’ approach </li></ul><ul><li>Linking external and internal communications to ensure we present key messages to council staff – ‘ambassadors’ </li></ul><ul><li>Working with departments – Executive briefings </li></ul><ul><li>Training senior managers in reputation management and media management issues </li></ul><ul><li>Help them to recognise issues before they happen </li></ul>
  23. 35. Strategic communications – our approach <ul><li>Making it real to people – both internal and external </li></ul><ul><li>Reputation management and media management issues </li></ul>
  24. 36. Strategic communications – what we know <ul><li>Key aims </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Healthy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Achieving </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Prosperous </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Safer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cleaner and greener </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Strong and confident </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(Value for money) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Key themes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ Ensuring economic prosperity for all’ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ Narrowing the gap between the most and least well off’ </li></ul></ul><ul><li>THIS VISION IS NOW OUR BEDROCK (DVD) </li></ul>
  25. 37. Reputation management and the ‘reputation gap’ <ul><li>Key outcome for us – resident satisfaction </li></ul><ul><li>Nationally and locally – overall performance / perception gap </li></ul><ul><li>BVPI service scores for Bolton better than overall satisfaction score </li></ul><ul><li>Reflects a national trend with only a minority of exceptions </li></ul>
  26. 38. Background – customer satisfaction survey <ul><li>(BVPI 3) Taking everything into account, how satisfied </li></ul><ul><li>are you with the way Bolton Council runs things? </li></ul><ul><li>2007 2006 2005 2003 </li></ul><ul><li>52% 50% 48% 51% </li></ul><ul><li>(71% (68% </li></ul><ul><li>service service </li></ul><ul><li>average) average) </li></ul><ul><li>These figure are typical of most councils currently </li></ul>
  27. 39. Factors influencing satisfaction <ul><li>Q: Which of the following most influenced your answer to “overall </li></ul><ul><li>how satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the way the authority runs </li></ul><ul><li>things?” </li></ul><ul><li>How well the council is performing </li></ul><ul><li>Your experience of using or benefiting from council services </li></ul><ul><li>How well informed the council keeps you about services and benefits it provides </li></ul><ul><li>The value for money your council tax represents </li></ul><ul><li>What you’ve heard or seen about the council in local media </li></ul><ul><li>Your experience of contacting or dealing with the council </li></ul><ul><li>What the council spends its money on </li></ul>
  28. 40. Factors influencing satisfaction <ul><li>Q: Which of the following most influenced your answer to Q22 “overall </li></ul><ul><li>how satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the way the authority runs </li></ul><ul><li>things?” </li></ul><ul><li>Your experience of contacting or dealing with the council (1) </li></ul><ul><li>What the council spends its money on (2) </li></ul><ul><li>The value for money your council tax represents (3) </li></ul><ul><li>Your experience of using or benefiting from council services (4) </li></ul><ul><li>How well informed the council keeps you about services and benefits it provides (5) </li></ul><ul><li>How well the council is performing (6) </li></ul><ul><li>What you’ve heard or seen about the council in local media (7) </li></ul>
  29. 41. “ I get my info about the council from…” <ul><li>… materials provided by the council 45% </li></ul><ul><li>… local media 42% </li></ul><ul><li>… word of mouth 19% </li></ul><ul><li>… council web/intranet 17% </li></ul><ul><li>… direct contact with council 12% </li></ul>87% of residents turn to our paper first for news about the council
  30. 42. A common sense approach to reputation management <ul><li>Perception of the council is key to performance </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Telling our story </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Showing how we provide value for money etc </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Four key ways … </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Corporate publications’: eg Bolton Scene, Bolton Plan; Town Centre publication </li></ul><ul><li>Maximising effectiveness of media management </li></ul><ul><li>Managing cross-cutting communication priorities </li></ul><ul><li>Staff engagement </li></ul>
  31. 45. Media management - why is it important?
  32. 46. Media management – why is it important? <ul><ul><li>HEALTH AND SAFETY GONE MAD </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Town hall chiefs in Alnwick, Northumberland are being forced to make Santa ride into town on a bus because his sleigh is not insured. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>HANGING BASKETS BANNED IN VILLAGE </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A village that has won awards for its blooms and floral displays has been told it cannot put up hanging baskets for fear they could fall, maiming or killing passers-by. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>COUNCIL OFFICER EVICTS ELDERLY </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A council officer from Norwich with responsibility for helping the homeless has evicted elderly tenants from their cottages and moved into them at low rent with a fellow council official. The council is investigating the case. </li></ul></ul>
  33. 47. Media management – why is it important?
  34. 48. Media management – why is it important?
  35. 49. Benefits of media management <ul><li>Raises the profile of the council both amongst the people of Bolton and regionally and nationally </li></ul><ul><li>Increases awareness and understanding of what the Council and different departments do </li></ul><ul><li>Provide credibility – ‘non-sensationalist’ media is generally trusted and taken at face value </li></ul><ul><li>Reducing negative perceptions of the council as a whole </li></ul>
  36. 50. Risks of media management <ul><li>Misrepresentation – media sensationalises the story </li></ul><ul><li>Misunderstanding – media or public don’t understand story (all the more reason to tell the comms team) </li></ul><ul><li>Opposition – people don’t like ideas being suggested </li></ul><ul><li>A raised profile is an EXPOSED profile, but it is worth taking the risks to reap the rewards </li></ul>
  37. 51. Internal communications <ul><li>We aim to: </li></ul><ul><li>create an effective mentality – no silos </li></ul><ul><li>keep staff up to date with important news and developments within the council </li></ul><ul><li>value staff opinions, listen to their suggestions for improvement and act on them </li></ul><ul><li>help staff communicate effectively </li></ul>
  38. 52. Result! What staff think <ul><li>2008 staff survey results: </li></ul><ul><li>75% of respondents (2,421) were satisfied with their current job </li></ul><ul><li>73% were either very or fairly satisfied with Bolton Council as an employer </li></ul><ul><li>67% were proud to work for Bolton Council </li></ul><ul><li>46% were satisfied with council communications </li></ul><ul><ul><li>National average is 17% </li></ul></ul>
  39. 53. How we communicate internally <ul><li>Intranet </li></ul><ul><li>Staff survey </li></ul><ul><li>Update Online </li></ul><ul><li>Team briefings </li></ul><ul><li>Bolton 100 club </li></ul><ul><li>Director briefings </li></ul><ul><li>Bob – staff magazine </li></ul><ul><li>Regular team meetings </li></ul><ul><li>Back to the floor events </li></ul><ul><li>Chief Executive briefings </li></ul><ul><li>Departmental newsletters </li></ul><ul><li>Owned/encouraged by EMT </li></ul>
  40. 54. Summary: Strategic comms works! <ul><li>Monitoring and measurement – helps to prove the worth of the team </li></ul><ul><li>Evaluation and consultation – helps to develop even better communications </li></ul><ul><li>Forward planning – ensures the team knows what’s on the horizon – must be done regularly </li></ul><ul><li>Issues management – makes communications more effective </li></ul><ul><li>Media management – developing a relationship with the media can help enormously </li></ul><ul><li>Reputation management – encouraging staff to think about the consequences of their actions is key </li></ul><ul><li>Corporate publications – vital to get message across </li></ul>
  41. 55. Strategic communications: challenges <ul><li>It doesn’t happen overnight - it takes years … </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t expect miracles - resistance is common – sometimes worse! </li></ul><ul><li>The icing or the currants? (Professionalism) </li></ul><ul><li>Develop your long term plan – and stick to it </li></ul><ul><li>Ensure you build a team with strategic awareness and planning skills </li></ul><ul><li>This is vital when you reach the ‘tipping point’ </li></ul><ul><li>Who are your allies? Who are the assassins? </li></ul><ul><li>Some of it will be planning – but some is just luck! </li></ul><ul><li>Be prepared for early setbacks </li></ul>
  42. 56. Strategic communications: challenges <ul><li>Build your evidence chest – evaluation/monitoring/surveys </li></ul><ul><li>Prepare for the worst and hope for the best (issues management) </li></ul><ul><li>Develop relationships based on trust … </li></ul><ul><ul><li>with chief officers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>with councillors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>with HR (internal communications) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Build relationships with the media </li></ul><ul><li>As your chest fills up – go to work … </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Present to Directors and senior managers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Remind them of successes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Remind them how you helped them through issues/setbacks </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Make your case for the seat at the top table </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Top table is just the start … </li></ul>
  43. 57. Strategic communications: challenges <ul><li>Once you have their trust you’ll reach a tipping point </li></ul><ul><li>(‘It really works!’; ‘you help me to do my job better’) </li></ul><ul><li>This creates new issues in terms of workload </li></ul><ul><li>Your team’s skills really start to matter </li></ul><ul><li>You need to learn to absorb information fast </li></ul><ul><li>Expect it to hurt – not always time to Swot/Pestle </li></ul><ul><li>Reality check: Strategic comms = stressful comms </li></ul><ul><ul><li>You become aware of issues early on </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You think through all the possibilities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You hope for the best outcome but plan for the worst </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Public accountability </li></ul></ul>
  44. 58. Challenges: The political dimension … <ul><li>Can be difficult to manage </li></ul><ul><li>Councils effectively have two sets of ‘senior managers’ </li></ul><ul><li>Some cllrs are ‘on message’ … others less so </li></ul><ul><li>They have a job to do as well </li></ul><ul><li>Democracy in action </li></ul><ul><li>Treat all equally and with respect (Code of Conduct on Local Authority Publicity) </li></ul><ul><li>Public accountability </li></ul><ul><li>Generally have the best interests of the place at heart </li></ul><ul><li>Educate to gain understanding (brand) </li></ul>
  45. 59. Strategic communications: opportunities <ul><li>A chance to prove your professionalism </li></ul><ul><li>A chance to make a difference (foster care) </li></ul><ul><li>Not just strategic in the way you work – but also in your mindset </li></ul><ul><li>This makes you valuable </li></ul><ul><li>Wider corporate knowledge than some top managers! </li></ul><ul><li>Your skills can be interchangeable – promotion awaits! </li></ul><ul><li>This approach is still new in the public sector </li></ul><ul><li>Many council comms teams are ‘task and finish’ </li></ul><ul><li>Majority still don’t participate in guiding coalition </li></ul><ul><li>Growing awareness – so you are well placed </li></ul>