CIPR Local Public Services Committee member Guiseppina Valenza shares her experience.

We’re used to those last minute requests for leaflets, media releases, posters, content checking, social media etc. We’re used to working around the lack of foresight and planning from many of the people we work with.

But the last three months have been even more challenging for all public sector communications professionals. The information coming out from government which we need to relay to our residents, our businesses and our staff has been relentless. 

In my (very small) team, we’ve become experts at turning around between three and four e-newsletters to our subscribers every week, from research, to content development, design and promotion, along with creating thousands of social media posts and constant updating of our website pages. 

Key aim: provide simple, clear information and signposting further details

All of this while working remotely, with none of us in the same place at the same time. Some weeks it’s been harder than others to muster the enthusiasm for more of the same. But somehow we have.

Our key aim has been to provide simple and clear information, while signposting people to more details. It’s been tough and my team and I feel we could probably do quite well on Mastermind answering questions about coronavirus and government policy. 

Changing gear

We had to step it up another gear with the announcement of the Reopening the High Streets fund at the end of May 2020, when the UK Government made £50 million available to councils. It’s great to have some budget for a change, but we still had to understand and work out how to meet strict criteria to be able to tap into it.

In the short space of two weeks we developed a detailed communications plan, a strapline that worked for our towns and for us, content and designs and managed to get lamppost signs and banners up across our district, ready for the shops reopening. 

Some of the things we have done so far

  • We created posters the businesses could use.
  • We enlisted the help of our district and parish councillors, as well as our Business Improvement Districts, to distribute them across our district.
  • We’re publicising which businesses are opening on our website and our social media channels.
  • We’ve invited businesses to send us photos of their businesses reopening and with customers.
  • We’ve asked our councillors to get photos of themselves out shopping for us to share across our channels.
  • We’ve had a great response so far!

This is just the start, as this will need to be an ongoing campaign to keep encouraging people back to the high streets, while reassuring them it’s safe to shop. I am expecting our campaign to evolve over time. 

As part of this, in response to a post on Public Sector Comms Headspace asking if anyone had any ‘whizzy plans‘ I set up a group on the Knowledge Hub inviting people to share their plans and work. I have shared what we have done so far on there. I am not sure it’s that whizzy, but it’s a solid base to work from.

We’re all being asked to do the same thing, so it makes sense to share what we do as the turnaround time is so tight. My team may be small, but I know for some there is only one person trying to manage all of this, so if sharing our information helps anyone else that can only be a good thing. 

“I’m part of the CIPR Local Public Services group, which has been very proactive throughout the last few months putting together advice, tips and information related to the pandemic.

If you have any case studies, or examples of what you have done to get shoppers back into your towns, please let us know so we can share these.” 

Discover more in the Resource for Communicators during the coronavirus outbreak https://bit.ly/lps_coronavirus

Apart from Public Sector Comms Headspace, I also belong to a public sector networking group across Surrey and a national benchmarking group.

All of these are brilliant at providing mutual support, ideas and a safe place to discuss what’s bothering us.

Join the Business Campaigns and Regeneration Group

Anyone is welcome to join the business campaigns and regeneration group on the Knowledge Hub at https://khub.net/group/business-campaigns-and-regeneration. If you do, please share your ideas or start a conversation. You just need to be registered on the Knowledge Hub before you can join the group, but it’s free.

Nothing my team and I have done is ground breaking, but I am really proud of what we have managed to achieve in such a short space of time. 

An experienced public sector communicator, Giuseppina is currently Head of Communications and Customer Experience at Tandridge District Council in Surrey. 
Her team delivers a proactive and professional approach to corporate communications, making use of customer insight to enhance services and deliver a better experience for the customer. She is a member of the Senior Leadership Team. Giuseppina is Chair of the Surrey Communications Group, a Surrey wide public sector group of about 100 communications professionals.

Thanks to Giuseppina Valenza and Abha Thakor for work on publishing this post. If you have an example of what your local authority is doing to help local regeneration and encourage people to shop locally and safely, let us know so we can feature it.

Resource for Communicators during the coronavirus pandemic – all materials featured in this giant and indexed information source is based on feedback and requests from communicators.

By ciprlps