Cormac Smith, head of comms at Basildon Council, was picked to replace David Holdstock as part of a three-day event held by LGcomms, which represents comms teams across local government.
Among those to walk away with the spoils from the Wednesday evening prize giving were Derbyshire County Council for Campaign of the Year and Nottingham City Council, which scooped both the Value for Money and Special Achievement award.
Named the LGcomms Academy, the conference involved speeches from a selection of PR luminaries from across the public sector, as well as a range of workshops.
Stepping into his new role after beating off competition from Andy Allsopp, Smith vowed to make the PR practitioners ‘scientists, not artists’.
Kicking off on Tuesday and finishing last night, the conference included speakers such as PRCA CEO Francis Ingham and George Eykyn, head of comms at the Department of Communities and Local Government.
Among the highlights were talks by Richard Stokoe, head of comms at the London Fire Brigade, as well as professor Trevor Morris from the University of Westminster.
Addressing the question ‘Is PR still relevant?’ Morris, formerly CEO of Chime Communications, pointed to rise of PR in newly democratised countries and said:
‘People are becoming less deferential. They want to be less talked at and are looking for third-party endorsement, as well as experts, to inform their opinions. That’s what PR is about, so it will clearly become more rather than less important. It’s a crucial part of the modern democratic marketplace of ideas and products, and it’s a symptom of freedom.’
Over the course of yesterday talking points focused around being able to measure comms and prove its importance at a time when local government continue to cut budgets and staff.
Also up for discussion was the need for more a joined up comms effort from local public sector providers, and how to improve social media presence.
Giving a talk was Paul Mylrea, director of comms for the BBC.
Covering everything from shutting down the print version of the BBC’s in-house publication Ariel through to impartiality, Mylrea pointed to the organisation’s work with local groups and institutions.
‘The BBCs engagement across the country is not just as a broadcaster- it's embedded in community,’ he said.
Other winners from the LGcomms Academy awards included Derbyshire County Council for council leadership and Hillingdon council for best community safety.