Council appoints comms chief with mission to rebuild trust following Grenfell

Kensington and Chelsea Council (RBKC) has promoted Nick Thompson to become its head of comms, with a mission to rebuild public trust in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Nick Thompson will rebuild comms at RBKC in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster
Nick Thompson will rebuild comms at RBKC in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster

Thompson, a former press secretary to the minister for the Cabinet Office, took up his new role last week.

He had worked for RBKC since 2017, when he joined as head of news.

Previously, Thompson left his role at the Cabinet Office to briefly re-join Westminster Council’s comms team; he was also a local newspaper journalist for Archant Group earlier in his career.

He told PRWeek that RBKC was in the process of reimagining its comms from the ground up, and that he and his team would help guide it through a period of change.

Modern, two-way comms

Thompson’s role will be to ensure the council has a modern and engaging comms team, which promotes a two-way conversation with the public. 

He said: "We think we can really improve what we do and become a highly regarded team, not only in our sector but with our own residents as well."

Thompson, who said he is on the hunt for new talent, will lead a team of 13, including designers, campaigns and digital, internal comms and news and media officers.

Change from traditional press office

He said: "[RBKC] previously had a very traditional press office function, but we are moving to a campaign-led model with an emphasis on making public information simple, available and easy to understand."

In addition to a greater emphasis on campaigns, Thompson said he would overhaul the council’s digital approach over the next 12 months, including its website and its corporate and campaign social-media channels.

To consolidate the changes, a new, overarching comms strategy is planned this summer.

The shadow of Grenfell

The Grenfell Tower

The fresh approach to comms comes in the wake of a speech by Conservative council leader Elizabeth Campbell earlier this year, during which she recognised the long-term impact of the Grenfell Tower fire on the local authority’s reputation.

In June 2017 a fire broke out in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block in North Kensington, with the loss of 72 lives. 

A survey for PRWeek found that nearly 80 per cent of the public thought the council had not handled the tragedy well.

Speaking in March, Campbell said: "An uncomfortable truth is what happened on 14 June 2017 highlighted the fact that some people had lost faith in us completely. They had lost faith in the Council."

Asked what he regarded the main comms challenges and priorities for the borough to be, Thompson made reference to the Grenfell tragedy.

He said: "We almost need to start again, which is a big challenge. I firmly believe we have a major role to play in helping the council and our staff rebuild trust with our communities. Good communication aids transparency, consultation and decision making – this is our main focus, but it will take time to get to where we need to be."


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