David Holdstock: Reputation will be at the forefront, post-election

The election campaign is now well underway and whatever colour the political landscape after May, working in the public sector is going to be very different. This brings challenges for communicators and we are going to have to up our game, particularly in the area of reputation. This is already recognised as a priority for chief executives and communicators need to be in the driving seat to manage it in the new world.

David Holdstock: reputation is key
David Holdstock: reputation is key

The landscape has changed significantly since the LGA published its Reputation Campaign in 2005. At that time, satisfaction with councils was falling and yet public perceptions of council services were on the rise.

Working with the LGA, LGcommunications has reviewed the original campaign and is developing a 'New Reputation Project' which identifies opportunities to improve the way councils manage their reputation and develop the ‘habits of the best’.

What we have found is that councils are still not very good at making people aware of what they do and getting the credit for it. Value for money and satisfaction with universal council services, such as waste collection remain at the heart of reputation management and councils need to recognise this and develop 'one council' branding and a core set of actions or campaigns.

Strong political, administrative and communications leadership with a clear understanding of vision and values is key to councils developing their story for residents.  Communicators will also need to work more closely with policy officials to change behaviour, influence opinion and shape the policy debate. 

The research has also highlighted other critical areas for driving reputation such as effective staff engagement, evaluation and monitoring. In the financial environment in which we are operating, just delivering ‘things’ is no longer good enough.  We have to demonstrate the value and worth of communications to improving reputation.

At our conference in May, LGcommunications will launch the ‘New Reputation Project’, giving strategic support to organisations so they can develop clear and believable two-way narratives, as well as providing a new impetus for staff engagement. An interactive toolkit, which reflects the current economic environment, will give practical support and for the first time, will also focus on new communications channels such as websites and social media.  It will be flexible enough for authorities across all tiers of government to use.

It is more important than ever that we get the basics right and if done well, communications can play a vital role to boost effectiveness, deliver real benefits for communities and improve reputation.

David Holdstock Is chair of LGcommunications and head of corporate communications at the London Borough of Hillingdon

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