Headlines: September 12th, 2008

Councils are being warned they may need to rethink the way they communicate with their local residents if they want to take advantage of the place shaping agenda. The warning comes from local government PR experts who say the changes are needed to create attractive, prosperous and safe communities.

The communicators are calling for place shaping to be recognised as a key challenge in public sector communications, an industry that, they say, has become increasingly sophisticated and demanding. They also want councils to provide strategic leadership and spearhead partnership working to help deal with the problems communities may face. The recommendations are made in ‘Communicating Place Matters’, a Local Government communications report which has been sent to 300 local authorities across the country.

The report has been produced ahead of the government’s ‘Place Survey’ which is due to take place in October and November. Carl Welham, who chairs the LGcommunications Commission, said Local government will have to rethink the way that it communicates if authorities are to capitalise on the Place Shaping agenda.”

The report highlights the need to base communications solidly on the results of consultation and market research and to move authorities away from communications based on ideas generated internally. The report also calls for councils to put new emphasis on campaign communications, to agree a common public service approach and to offer a story for their place that is authentic and links legacy issues and future aspiration.

Carl Welham, who is head of communications and customer services at Buckinghamshire County Council, added, “The new emphasis on place means that campaigns will have to be assessed according to their impact on the community, not whether council officers are pleased with the posters.”