During 2022, we’ve never been far away from a crisis. From the ongoing war in Ukraine and the UK’s Cost of Living emergency to the sad passing of Queen Elizabeth, Essex County Council’s Communications and Marketing network has been kept busy this year. That’s without mentioning the three prime ministers we’ve had!
As the year’s closing, the corporate C&M team are reflecting on takeaways 2022, and what we’re looking forward to for 2023.
What we do is making a difference
Our in-house Design Studio work collaboratively with the whole organisation on a range of pieces. One project this year had a personal impact on Zoe Alsford, one of our Designers.
From Zoe Alsford, Designer
“During 2022, most of the projects I have worked on have been large, accessible documents. These can be quite taxing and time consuming and involve a lot of planning when it comes to the design, something I am becoming more adept with as time goes on.
Whilst I do enjoy working on these structured documents, it was a very welcome change to be asked to work on a poetry book for the Adult Social Care team. The book was written by a lady with dementia. As I was working on the book, I sadly lost my uncle to the disease, so the project became incredibly cathartic and reflective.
Then, I was invited to attend the informal ceremony at the care home to present the finished book to the author, Joan. It was so moving, the sheer joy on her face was the best compliment I could ever receive for a project I have been a part of.”
Sharing news with our communities has been essential
Unsurprisingly, several times this year, media outlets and local communities have had questions. Next, Glen Oldershaw, External Communications Advisor runs through the scale of the challenge his team have faced.
From Glen Oldershaw, External Communications Advisor
“There are many projects I am proud of having worked on this year. At the start of the year, COVID-19 was still an issue, the general response of the external communications team to the pandemic will always be a source of career pride to me.
Plus, the launch of Essex County Council’s Levelling Up strategy and the hard work which went into the launches across the county was also a great team success.
Breaking it down - I’m astounded that the latest figures show ECC Press Desk handled 1,137 media enquiries in 2022 – that’s 22 enquiries a week.
Some of these were extremely complex, requiring multiple responses. Plus, this figure doesn’t even include the huge amount of crisis communications support supplied to Essex schools and teachers.
Figures also reveal 316 news releases were distributed by the external communications team this year, most of which researched and written by team members. The external communications team have maintained a huge media contact network and is a working operation I’m very proud to be part of. I’m sure this will continue into 2023!”
Mental health matters
There’s no shame in asking for help with your mental health – especially in the times we’re working in! Throughout the year, Laura Bliss, Internal Communications Advisor has been working on employee wellbeing.
From Laura Bliss, Internal Communications Advisor
“Generally, the team has had a very busy year, communicating directly with our staff through a range of channels including One News and email. Also, we have been;
- offering strategic advice and consultancy to teams across the council.
- leading the comms on high-profile culture change programmes
- shaping the organisation’s diversity and inclusion conversations
- checking and challenging content
- working with colleagues in the network, listening to their feedback and questions
Personally, I joined ECC in the Spring of 2021 after experiencing, like so many others, an impact on my mental health due to the pandemic. One project I’ve been particularly proud of leading is our wellbeing offer and strategy for ECC colleagues, using internal comms to raise awareness of the range of support available.
This includes our Employee Assistance Programme, helping ECC employees access information, advice and counselling on a variety of personal and workplace issues.
It’s been a great opportunity to help open up honest conversations around mental health. I hope, during 2023, we continue to support colleagues in both their professional and personal lives.”
View ECC’s wellbeing offer and see what help is available for you.
Change isn’t always a bad thing
While reacting to global and national news has kept us all busy, the corporate Content team have also been reacting to changes in the team. Recently, the team of four has become a team of two – Senior Content Advisor Louise Alabaster explains how she’s managing this.
From Louise Alabaster, Senior Content Advisor
“Omicron spread, Russia invaded Ukraine, Queen Elizabeth II died, and searches relating to cost of living exploded. If we thought 2021 kept us busy as communicators, then a relentless 2022 proved that we needed to sustain and adapt. The topics changed but the deadlines, and demand, for high quality communications remained.
Working in a team of four which has had two colleagues leave recently, gave me a real sense of unease about how we were going to cope. Let me clarify, they've left for great new opportunities and the next steps of their careers in the private and public sector. But - this has left us in a resource funk!
I'm thankful this is where my resilience built over the past few years has kicked in. Rather than a sense of panic about delivering a work plan with 50% of the resource, it's forced me to see the opportunity for change on offer.
In early 2023 I'll be challenging what truly is a priority in a time of limited resource and where our time and professional skills will have the most impact and return.”
Collaboration is at our core
ECC’S corporate Campaigns team have overseen seemingly countless campaigns, often working alongside C&M network colleagues. Charlotte Farrant, Campaigns Advisor details one campaign from 2022 she’s particularly proud of.
From Charlotte Farrant, Campaigns Advisor
“One piece of work which I am particularly proud of this year was the Essex Residents’ Campaign which ran earlier in the year. The support received from colleagues on the MDT and our client in the service was outstanding. A great team effort and collaboration at its best. Working together we achieved so much, from creating a fresh campaign identity to nearly doubling the number of members signed up to the panel, this was a fantastic achievement.
Well done team it was great working with you!”
Personal development is important!
Also, across the corporate team and the network, we are always growing our professional and personal skillsets. Jackie Storr, Social Media Advisor shares the work she’s loved producing plus how she’s personally grown during the year.
From Jackie Storr, Social Media Advisor
“I have a few things I’m proud of so can’t choose one! Since joining back in November 2021, I have continued to deliver social media training to our councillors, including advice on best practices. Plus, the team are working with our C&M network during our new social media drop-in sessions.
One moment I’m especially proud of is working on Operation London Bridge during the weekend we lost the Queen. I captured social content and interviewed the high sheriff at County Hall for proclamation of King Charles.
Problems I had to solve would be presenting to my colleagues across the network, I felt so nervous all the time, which was quite crippling. However, since our away day on “public speaking” and with the support of my team I took some amazing tips onboard on how to master my own voice, which has 100% worked.
The one thing I’m looking to take forward to 2023 is more creativity within the social media team and how far I can inspire and collaborate with my colleagues across the organisation.”
What’s coming up in 2023?
Finally - of course, colleagues across the C&M network have worked tirelessly to deliver campaigns, and emergency communications to their services. We shared some highlights throughout the year, including the BLUEPRINT ROADSHOW and launching the Arts and Cultural Fund.
Next year, we will continue to celebrate each other’s successes!