Dundee City Council's public relations team is multi-skilled, highly proactive and committed to local government service.
Our annual consumer surveys show the overall reputation of the council is influenced by the extent and quality of communication and consequently our work is an integral part of the council meeting its corporate objectives.
Public relations staff have an upstream role in officer/member decision making which allows us to influence communications activity at an early stage and at all levels.
Measurement and evaluation is now part and parcel of our work and the Annual Consumer Survey 1998 showed a marked improvement in our communications.
The borough of Eastleigh and the council's activities are 'on the map' as a result the small, enthusiastic and motivated PR team that has consistently demonstrated performance above the normal level of service provision.
Placed at the heart of the organisation, the team plays a vital role in helping to move the authority forward in partnership with its communities by listening, responding to their views and offering up to date information.
The team works closely with 20 service units offering specialist advice and managing a wide variety of service projects. Our proactive approach and close media relations has enabled some remarkable and creative PR solutions.
During the past 12 months significant improvements together with measurable quality standards have been introduced in an effort to provide high quality value for money services to all our internal and external customers.
Achievements over the past year include a new council newspaper, a new youth magazine and a new Internet site.
We know we are among the best - we've asked our customers. This might seem a surprising boast coming from Hackney, but it is not mere PR hype. Over the past year, all the services provided by the public relations and communications team have been tested using the principles of best value.
We have consulted customers on our services and benchmarked the quality and cost against other highly regarded councils. Even services which are traditionally difficult to evaluate have been put under the microscope. For example, we have commissioned independent surveys of journalists and film locations officers to find out what they think about our media relations and film locations services.
We have won three national PR awards as well as accolades from stakeholders. We have produced innovative PR campaigns including a Safer Streets campaign which led to a 22% reduction in street robbery and a Getting Hackney Back to Work campaign which was highlighted as an example of good practice at the European Union Welfare to Work conference in June 1998.
The borough had a history of doing nothing very badly or nothing very well. Poverty was always used as an excuse for providing poor services.
A new leader and chief executive two and a half years ago worked hard to instill an ambition within the organisation.
The communications unit was established in November 1996 as an intrinsic part of the chief executive's change programme. Made up of four communication officers, a manager and an administration officer, the team has significantly increased its productivity and introduced measurable quality standards which have placed it at the heart of the organisation.
While the unit provides the lead, it supports, and is supported by, other teams throughout the council to develop successful two-way communications with staff, residents and businesses and to ensure our messages are transmitted. This corporate approach is co-ordinated through a steering group of key officers from each department.
In April 1998 Slough BC became a unitary authority, a change that was to triple its staff numbers and alter the face of public services.
To achieve a smooth transition, it would be crucial to alert local people to the impending changes - but the council wanted to go much further than merely supplying information. It aimed to create a real sense of involvement.
This meant transmitting a dual message: that services would continue uninterrupted, but also that the new authority had a progressive agenda which would bring about real improvements.
The PR team launched an information campaign and a related public consultation exercise, using a variety of methods targeted for different audiences. The success of the information campaign was evident in the remarkably smooth transition period.
Award sponsor- Citigate Westmister
'The importance of good communications has long been recognised by many local authorities. The best authorities appreciate that communication is a two-way process, and have developed skills in speaking with clarity to their various publics whilst knowing how to listen attentively.
Under best value, well honed listening and speaking skills are essential. After all, one of the four C's that underpin the best value framework is 'consultation', and at critical stages in the process the public must be informed about council performance plans.
But the communication process is not as easy as it sounds. It requires a sharp strategic focus combined with creativity, effective project management skills, and the ability to build relationships of trust with people within and outside your organisation.
As a leading communication consultancy for the public sector, which has worked with over 40 local authorities, Citigate Westminster is delighted to be sponsoring these awards for the third year. This award recognises the pressures PR teams work under, and is intended to reward excellence. Congratulations to the shortlisted PR teams.'
Colin Douglas, deputy managing director, Citigate Westminster.