Chair’s Report 2019 – 2020

Kerry Sheehan, Chair of CIPR Local Public Services Group, presented a report for 2019-2020 at the CIPR LPS Annual General Meeting 2020 on 15 October 2020.

The past months and 2020 has and will be an incredible year for public sector communicators.

Who would have thought as many of us had just seen light at the end of the very long dark tunnel on EUExit, we had a way forwards for communications at least, to then be hit by Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The initial phase has been hard enough on everyone, working around the clock nationally, regionally and locally, teams being on the front line all pulling together with only the one aim to save lives, keep people safe and well, services running and supporting businesses and communities.

It doesn’t get better than that but I would like to say a huge thank you and great appreciation and admiration for all of our comms heroes. We have never seen times like this in the UK and across the globe and we are not done yet, we don’t know when we will be done. That is impossible to guess and we have what could be a stark winter ahead of ourselves.

But I would like to celebrate what has been and continues to be achieved and which has elevated our sector to the highest levels.

At the end of the day, effective communication saves lives. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Highlights from the year

In addition to our sector communicators continuing to be on the front line, I would like to pull out some key highlights from the past year, including:

Mandy Pearse becoming President-Elect and CIPR President for 2020. We have a brilliant year ahead as we all support Mandy in her role and one which further elevate the role public sector communication plays. 2021 won’t be without its financial challenges and there will be the implications of EUExit to also support our organisations with, in addition to COVID-19.

More on our Coronavirus Resource for Communicators

Coronavirus resource for communicators

The continually updated resource for public sector communicators has been lauded in the public sector by in-house and external consultants who support the public sector and was also highlighted in the Times Educational Supplement as a ‘fantastic resource for communicators in the teaching industry’. A special thank you to Committee member Abha Thakor who has been behind this. Thanks also to the global tech collaborators Abha brought in for the linked resources and ongoing support with this. 

This resource was also lauded by practitioners across sectors as we have already supported in excess of 500 requests from public sector communicators for help and advice on Coronavirus communications. We continue to do what we can, in addition to our own very busy day jobs, many practitioners supporting at the front line too.

The resource was set up and running before the UK-wide lockdown was imposed on March 23 this year. We were able to get support out straight away.

Local Public Services COVID-19 Advisory Panel

Another highlight of 2020 has been the support our committee has received from the COVID-19 Advisory Panel.

The Advisory Panel members of Sarah Pinch, Hayley James, Emma Thwaites, Amanda Coleman, Daniel Slee, Claire Parker, Suzie Kinnear, Abha Thakor, Mandy Pearse and myself were incredible in getting straight out of the gate and into action supporting with industry-leading guides on communicating during a crisis, how to communicate the death of a colleague, volunteer or elected representative and also a guide on how to do hot debriefs in real time. These, working s part of the communicators resource, were all vital to enable fast, responsive communications and adaptions in real time. 

These guides and the resource were also used widely by CIPR members in all groups but also with other sector communications professionals outside the CIPR, which is fantastic to see.

But we didn’t stop there, and continued working at pace being responsive to the landscape and this summer we held a summer learning series and support colleagues with completing their CPD [Continuing Professional Development].

Supporting learning

During five sessions, including community engagement, how to best utilise some of the newer digital channels, internal communications and community engagement to name a few, we had a total in excess of 350 people attending, which was fantastic. We also raised a couple of hundred pounds for iProvision, the CIPR’s charity to support members in need. Thank you to all the committee members who took part, supported with preparation and promotion.

Video and resources showing what communicators do

We cannot forget our simply brilliant cross public sector video we put together with the support of Dan Slee and many public sector communicators across the UK, in all the four nations. LINK

Superb and again this was lauded by many of our fellow CIPR groups for being what public sector communication is all about. The video had the highest number of unique views of any CIPR video to date. Brilliant and that is testament to everyone in and supporting this sector.

Behaviour change workshop

And, we must give thanks to Committee member Dominic-Ridley Moy for leading on the sold-out behaviour change workshop at the beginning of the year, attended by practitioners from across the UK.

Next few months

But it doesn’t stop there, we still have just over two months to go of 2020 and there is likely to be no let up for many of our communicators.

Therefore, we will be holding some Chatham House sessions, which will allow public sector communicators to chat about what they have experienced and are feeling. Through our resource and summer events, we are hearing of exhaustion, social media staff continue to be subject to a lot of personal social abuse and criticism from all kinds of people. There is of course, concerns about jobs going forwards as any cut backs start to kick-in. We will do what we can to support during these tough times and we may even do this from a global approach.  More coming on that soon.

As we look to 2020, we will be putting together a winter learning series. Topics will be announced in the New Year.

We will also be rebuilding our presence on the CIPR website to make it more appealing to members and to easily see what we do, as well as continuing with blogs and resources hosted on our local public sector communications blog site.

We hope to reactivate the safeguarding research we had started pre-COVID-19 looking at safeguarding crisis communications and devising a best practice guide with the Local Government Association. We will update on this as it develops.

We are also looking to work more with the LGA, Gov Comms and public sector partners, producing thought leadership pieces, contributing to reports etc and also publishing our horizon scanning research we started earlier this year pre-COVID on the future of public sector communications.

Mandy and myself will be speaking on the future UK public sector communications at the Australia GovComms Festival in November. 

So, that is a snapshot of just some of our highlights from this year and supported by our committee members who are out supporting professional development. Despite many of us not being able to meet or see each other in person, we have done a cracking job pulling everyone together and long may that continue. As our committee member Dan Slee always says: ‘this too will pass and we will meet again in person’.

So, a thunderous thank you to all public sector communicators and those supporting or sharing with the sector in the UK and globally. A heart-felt thank you to all of our 2020 committee, you have been just superb. I am very proud and you should be too.

We will be saying good bye to some of our 2020 committee members as they both continue to juggle work commitments including: Naomi Smith and Tamsin May. Thank you for your support and for being part of the CIPRLPS family and we’re pleased that you will continue as a friend of the group.

We also say a fond farewell to long-standing Committee member, Angie Burton who has provided incredible work and support to the LPS Group during the past five years Thank you, Angie for everything you have done for LPS and the support to all of our committee members. We are glad you will remain very much part of the CIPR LPS family.

We also welcome some new committee members for 2020.
we have to formally vote in the executive for the CIPR LPS Committee for 2021.

Vote on executive committee members:

  • Kerry Sheehan, Chair
  • Dominic Ridley Moy and Megan Page, Co-Vice Chairs
  • Giuseppina Valenza, Budget Manager 
  • This means we will have a vacancy for a secretary, which we will sort after this meeting.
  • Abha Thakor, Mandy Pearse, Peter Holt, Dan Slee, Thom Burn will remain committee members for 2021.

Let’s welcome our fantastic new members. For 2021, we will have a larger committee and again that is testament to the work of the Committee and Advisory Panel throughout this last year, in attracting record expressions of interest to join us for 2021. I’m delighted we will also be being expanding our Committee member coverage across the UK to cover Scotland, Wales, the north east, Lancashire and the south, showcasing we are representative of our members who work across the public sector in all of the nations and regions.

We also welcome a very talented PR student to join us for the first time, as a co-opted member to provide learning and development opportunities, supporting our industry talent pipeline.

Despite being a larger team for 2021, we will remain out-come focussed delivering value for our members. We will work to set up sub-groups, made up of committee members, to ensure our 2021 work plan is delivered.

There, will of course, continue to be socials throughout the year remotely or face-to-face as restrictions allow.

New Committee members joining us for 2021:

  • Sharon Dunbar, Communications and Media Officer, Moray Council, Scotland
  • Suzie Evans, Strategic Communications Manager, Lancashire Council
  • Raman Johal. Communications and Engagement Manager, NHS Coventry and Rugby CCG
  • Rebecca Fairbarn, Joint Head of Communications, Ashford and St. Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. 
  • Emma McBiarty, Senior Policy Officer (Communications) Guildford Council 
  • Chris Taylor, Managing Director DTW Agency, North East, Committee Member
  • Co-opted member: Daniel Broderick, Cardiff University.

Please join me in welcoming our new Committee members for 2021, great additions and very talented communications practitioners. We look forward to seeing what we can all achieve together. Great to have you all on board and welcome to the CIPR LPS family.

This brings the AGM to a close. Thank you for attending and thank you again for all your hard work during 2020 so far and all you continue to do for public sector communications and the CIPR.

By AT