Derbyshire County Council swept the board at last week's CIPR Local Public Services Excellence Awards, rounding off a conference that pointed to big challenges in the year ahead.
Derbyshire won awards for Communicators of the Year (large team); Campaign of the Year; Digital Excellence; Hard to Reach Communications Excellence and Publications Excellence.
'All of our campaigns are about improving people's lives,' assistant director of communications Jenny Tozer told PRWeek. 'It's about delivering benefits for local people. If local people can now employ a contractor to sort their drains out and they are not going to be ripped off, then we have done our job.'
Derbyshire director of comms Rod Cook attributed the successful year to three factors: 'Doing enough research before any campaign, keeping in mind the audience you're trying to reach, and having a council that understands the importance of comms.'
The other big winner was Teignbridge District Council, which won Communicators of the Year (small team) and External Magazine of the Year (circulation under 60,000). The council's comms officer Tim Borrett also won Young Communicator of the Year.
Torfaen County Council won two gongs - PR on a Shoestring, as well as Publications Design and Photography Excellence for its 'Dan Can the Super Recycler' campaign.
The London Borough of Camden won the Internal Magazine award, as well as the Internal Communications Excellence award for its Inside Camden publication.
Greenwich Council won an award for Media Relations Excellence for its Destination Greenwich campaign.
Opening the conference at Surgeons' Hall, Edinburgh, CIPR president Kevin Taylor called for greater professionalism in the PR industry and spoke out about the high number of bad practitioners.
Despite the conference's remit being widened to include local public services such as police and primary care trusts, just one person - Hampshire Police Authority comms officer Richard Andrews - attended from non-council services.
Delegates said the low attendance from non-council staff underlined the current challenge of integrating local public services comms. Brighton and Hove Council head of comms John Shewell called for more cross-working between local services in a presentation on evidence-based comms.
How I see it - Jenny Tozer, Assistant director of comms, Derbyshire County Council
At the core of everything we do is how it is going to improve the lives of our local people. I am most proud of the Quids In publication we did to show people what benefits they could be missing out on, because it was so different. The council took a risk but it worked in terms of how our public perceived it.
Public sector comms faces huge upheavals in the coming year, such as the Government's 'Single Status' agreement, which aims to remove unfairness in council pay. Some people will get improved pay, while others won't, creating an internal comms issue.