Headlines: August 20th, 1998

Radical changes taking place across public services are putting communication on the corporate agenda. Where there is instability and uncertainty people inside and stakeholders outside organisations want to know what is happening. Those involved in change want to know what is going on elsewhere, particularly in other professional disciplines.

Public service bodies are responding to the communication challenge in a variety of ways. Central departments have appointed directors of strategy and communication to ensure the harmony of corporate messages. The Thames region of the NHS is setting up a Communications Forum and one of the items it will consider is how to share views and experiences with other parts of the health service and beyond. Local authorities are now being urged to take a strategic view of communications by the Society of Local Government Chief Executives (SOLACE) and the Local Government Management Board (LGMB) in a booklet ‘Talking Heads – the Role of the Chief Executive as Communicator’. See Book News below.

Talking Heads brings few new insights, but it pulls together valuable experience and raises the profile of communication as a strategic issue. Much of the theory and practice is already in use in many authorities. Commenting on the booklet Robin Wilson of York City Council said: “We are familiar with the ideas, but that does not mean we are getting it all right. I think of organisations as networks of many people, all with a duty to communicate.” There was a similar response from the London Borough of Greenwich where communication is at the centre of the Council’s plans for improving services.

The booklet highlights the need for new thinking about how to communicate. It stresses that partners and stakeholders expect effective, speedy communication, using the Internet and e-mail.