Council delegates show real appetite for learning

Awards events can often go overboard. The glam, the glitz, the self indulgent speeches, the crocodile tears and the machine gun popping of champagne bottles.

This is particularly true in the world of television and movies where superficiality reaches its peak when the media interest is more heavily focused on what people wear rather than what they have done.

The celebrations for success in the local government sector is, quite rightly, a more modest affair but, in many ways, all the better for it.

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) Local Government Group conference at the end of last week culminated in a gala dinner in the Assembly Room at Cardiff City Hall and the presentation of the Excellence in Communications Awards.

The conference itself had buzzed along with some very interesting sessions including on the final day, Alex Aiken, the Head of Communications for Westminster City Council talking about handling communications in the aftermath of the London bombings; Howell James, Permanent Secretary, Government Communication on what government expects from their communicators and a session with John Humphrys, where he, for once, played interviewee.

Interspersed with these illuminating sessions were mini-presentations, warmly entitled Fifteen Minutes of Fame and giving an opportunity for award finalists to give away their trade secrets. Areas covered included Media Relations, Best Publication, PR on a Shoestring and Best Use of Design/Photography.

These were well attended and showed an appetite for learning new ideas from across the delegates who were representing councils from all over the UK and who must have returned to their teams with some useful nuggets that will help make competition for prizes even stiffer next year.

The awards event itself was straightforward and well managed with the BBC's local government correspondent, John Andrew handing out a host of awards to teams and individuals, reading brief but concise citations and then letting them get back to their celebrations.             
As one of the judges for the awards I was impressed by the standard of entries –particularly given the resource constraints that exist for many of the councils who participated. This meant that ingenuity, innovation and imagination were at a premium and in communication that has to be encouraged whatever the available budget.   

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