The top 10 things I learned in local government communications and marketing in 2021

Andy Allsopp, Head of Communications and Marketing

Here’s my take on what I learned this year, plus a few general points around leadership as well.

Watch out for my predictions for comms and marketing in local government in 2022 next week.

  1. Crisis management is now a mainstream comms discipline

You might argue it always was, but the sense that crisis management is something you keep your hand in by doing a course or an exercise every now and again went right out of the window in 2021. Covid, water outages, weather events, refugees, fuel shortages, and back to Covid – every period of 2021 was characterised by a crisis of some description which required expert comms handling. The good news – if we ever demonstrated our value to our organisations, this was the year we did so.

  1. Stakeholder comms is now a discipline in its own right

Relates to the above. We don’t do anything alone in public services, yes? There is always a link to another agency or individual. The comms and public affairs work which oils the wheels of those relationships shouldn’t be taken for granted.

  1. Integration, integration, integration

Never mind evaluation – if you are campaigning on anything, approaches have to be integrated. I have on occasion sighed deeply this year when presented with a stand-alone piece of PR claiming to be a ‘campaign’ with no real thought offered to the other elements – social, digital, internal, stakeholder, public affairs – which should be essential components.

  1. Data drives everything

If you’re not starting your campaigns with the numbers, you’re not starting in the right place. One of my predictions for the new year might be lots of quite tricky conversations with Members reminding them we don’t do “awareness raising”...

  1. Networking has taken on a whole new importance…

Relates to (1) and (2), but within Essex County Council and our wider network of Essex communicators, we have two vibrant communities of practice which enable us to generate far more effectiveness and impact from our comms and marketing…

  1. …and toolkits are helping us to share the love and increase our effectiveness.

…principally through producing toolkits for partners to use which ensure consistent messages across campaigns and organisations supporting them. It also enables everyone to exploit the local knowledge which every organisation has about what works best on their patch.

  1. Our business is getting harder…

With so many more cross-cutting agendas – climate action and carbon reduction, levelling up, health and social care – the business of helping people understand what we do, why we do it, and where the money goes it getting more challenging than ever. If your primary-school age children wouldn’t understand it, think again…

  1. …so looking after ourselves and our people is paramount.

A year ago I might have related this point to the homeworking, virtual online world, but it applies in general. Wellbeing is an overused phrase, but there’s no better time invested than understanding how individuals and teams are feeling and responding to challenges.

  1. Remember to have fun

We are a sociable business, and teams that play together, stay together. Some of my favourite memories of 2021 are the WhatsApp pictures of teams who met up for a coffee after spending time apart in lockdown. Those smiles meant a lot.

  1. Be nice…

Kindness wins every time.

What did 2021 teach you about local government communications and marketing? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

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