Alex Aiken: We are at heart of community effort

The role of local government communicators just got harder – and more satisfying. The Government is seeking to accelerate its drive to deliver ‘sustainable communities’ by devolving more power to local authorities.

So communicators are at the heart of the agenda to rebuild confidence in local government, use ‘wellbeing’ powers and engage the community in shaping their locality.

Local government minister Phil Woolas MP knows a fair bit about our business. He helped modernise the reputation of trade unions and worked for the BBC. He knows that the best councils already act as leaders for their locality, but his challenge to up our game is stark.

He and his government colleagues see the potential of public sector communicators working together to promote their locality.

This is a fundamental change to our work for two reasons. First, it acknowledges the role of communicators in delivering the agenda of devolved government, because it sees the local ‘brand’ as defining the vitality of the area and therefore the success of the project. Second, it lays down a challenge to deliver comms for the area.

As advocates for the town, we need particular skills – the need to consider an approach to brand management; the ability to persuade public and voluntary agencies to work with them; and the ability to devise a comms strategy that will demonstrate the value it adds to the area.

Doncaster is already working on a brand for the borough. Oldham, five years on from the riots, has rebuilt the reputation of the town using public service comms. And Liverpool’s City of Culture bid is a case study in how to build a brand of place through focused and determined coalition comms.

Local government comms is now at the centre of the campaign to create strong communities, with a reputation to match.

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