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Local government is changing – comms staff must change too

Simon Jones
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The challenges facing local government communications today are almost unrecognisable to the job of old.

Ten years ago an old chief exec of mine referred to us as the ‘department of puff’. Evaluation was mainly in the form of media clippings lying on the floor.

Austerity, public sector reform, devolution, sweeping changes in the media landscape, social shifts and an explosion in digital reach is forcing us to re-think our job description.

Our role now is less about an A-Z of services and more about understanding the DNA of our communities. We’re being asked to go from engagement to enablement, from internal comms to culture change, from council cheerleaders to place-makers, from campaigners to collaborators.

Put simply, the job of communications in local government has never been more important, nor has there been a greater need for us to show real leadership in rising to these challenges.

That is why this year’s Public Sector Communications Academy is so important. This is our opportunity to understand the changing landscape around us to develop the skills that we need to respond.

Think about what our new job description looks like commercial acumen, business management skills, organisational change, collaboration, digital prowess, influencing and leadership have all been added as ‘must haves’ of the modern communications leader. Evaluation has to be less about media cuttings and more about proving that every pound and penny spent on communications improves the lives of the people we serve. If we cannot prove this we do not deserve to survive ourselves.

That is why it is imperative that your communications team is there. The academy, which this year is in the fantastic city of Liverpool, is jointly organised with the Government Communications Service, underlining the importance of collaboration across the public sector.

It’s a snip at just £198 for the full two days if you are an LGcomms member. I hope it will be the best £198 your comms team has spent.

The Public Sector Communications Academy is sponsored by LGC and will be held on November 1 and 2 at St George’s Hall in Liverpool. You can register at

Simon Jones, chair, LGcomms and assistant director of communications, Haringey LBC

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