Let s talk Stevenage Borough Council Corporate Communications Strategy 2011 to 2014

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1 Let s talk Stevenage Borough Council Corporate Communications Strategy 2011 to 2014

2 2 Corporate Communications Strategy Contents Let s Talk, Councillor Sharon Taylor, Leader of Stevenage Borough Council 3 Stevenage Borough Council Co-operative Council Principles 4 Our pledge and purpose 5 The Strategy in context 6 Our Corporate Communications Strategy 2011 to Who are our? 8 How do we communicate? 9 What do we communicate? 10 Who communicates? 11 Evaluation 12 Appendix 1 Summary action plan 13 Appendix 2 Our performance to date 16 Appendix 3 Media relations performance measures 2011 to Appendix 4 Corporate Communications Team service standards 19 Appendix 5 Media enquiry form 21 Appendix 6 Press release approvals form 21 Appendix 7 Communications plan template 23

3 Corporate Communications Strategy Let s talk Communications is at the centre of everything we do. Through successful communication, we are able to deliver the services that are important to our residents, and develop good working relationships with many of our partners in the public, voluntary and private sectors. This strategy outlines how we are going to manage our communications activities over the next three years. It will help us to ensure that communication between us and the people and organisations that we come into contact with our is always appropriate. In this way, we hope that everyone is kept informed about the council s policies, activities and events, and that you know how to share your ideas and opinions with us. Because we understand that the ways in which we communicate will probably change during that time, we have built some flexibility into our plans. We are formalising our use of social media here, and recognising the importance of new media without compromising our use of traditional communication methods. There are some situations where a fast, immediate dialogue is most appropriate and others where a face-to-face meeting will give everyone the best result. We have had many years of successful two-way communications. Our strong mutual links with residents and community groups are testament to this - people know how to find us, and we re generally good at reaching the people that we need to. We know that we must continue to develop and improve and, with this strategy we are demonstrating our commitment to clear and consistent communications that meet our needs and those of all our. Councillor Sharon Taylor Leader of Stevenage Borough Council

4 4 Corporate Communications Strategy Stevenage Borough Council Co-operative Council Principles In January 2011, Stevenage Borough Council launched its co-operative principles. These promote and support the close working relationships the council has with the town s residents and organisations. As a Co-operative Council, Stevenage embraces the support and partnership of organisations and residents. We work with people that use council services to explore different ways of providing and managing those services to the mutual benefit of everyone involved. Our co-operative principles are: The Council as a strong community leader Working together with the community and other agencies to provide services based on needs Communities empowered to design and deliver services and play an active role in their local community A clear understanding between the Council and our communities - this is what we do, this is what we will help you to do Joined up and accessible services that offer value for money and focus on the customer. All of our communications activities will be carried out in line with these principles.

5 Corporate Communications Strategy Our pledge and purpose The Corporate Communications Strategy supports the co-operative council principles, and communicates the council s aims and achievements to all. Our Communications pledge: We will communicate clearly, openly, accurately and regularly with our residents, with our partners, and with each other, in order to promote mutual understanding, and give a better service to the people of Stevenage. The purpose of the Communications Strategy is: To establish and maintain clear and relevant two-way channels of communication in order to create an informed and recognisable profile for Stevenage Borough Council and a positive image of the town as a whole.

6 6 Corporate Communications Strategy The Strategy in context Research shows that the better informed people are about their council services, the more satisfied they feel. The Communities and Local Government report (Perceptions of Local Government in England 2006) provided strong evidence to suggest that clearly written, honest and transparent communications help to build trust among residents. Good communications therefore can lead to more effective services, a better reputation and stronger relationships. In our most recent residents survey (conducted by Opinion Research Services in autumn 2009) nearly four fifths of respondents (79%) said that they felt well informed about the services and benefits provided by Stevenage Borough Council. While this indicates a high satisfaction level, it also demonstrates that there is room for improvement. Paragraph 4 of the Code Of Recommended Practice On Local Authority Publicity 2011 says: Publicity by local authorities should: be lawful be cost-effective be objective be even-handed be appropriate have regard to equality and diversity be issued with care during periods of heightened sensitivity.

7 Corporate Communications Strategy Our Corporate Communications Strategy 2011 to 2014 This strategy explains how we plan to communicate with our over the next three years. The purpose of the Communications Strategy is: To establish and maintain clear and relevant two-way channels of communication in order to create an informed and recognisable profile for Stevenage Borough Council and a positive image of the town as a whole. A successful strategy will enable us to: Maintain a culture of two-way communication with all our Keep Stevenage residents well informed Raise awareness of the council s vision Address negative or potentially damaging information about council services Support council staff in their roles as ambassadors for the organisation Promote the council as an employer of choice Support elected members in their role as community leaders Reach all sections of the community Keep abreast of technological developments and embrace them where feasible Promote respect and trust between the council and its Raise the national profile of Stevenage With all our communications activities our aims are to: Maintain a strong and consistent identity for the council Raise awareness of council services in order to maximise access to them Improve quality of life for communities throughout the town Keep staff informed and promote understanding Promote opportunities for residents, community groups and other to engage with the council partnership working Maintain high customer satisfaction levels with the council We are committed to making all our communications activities: Two-way Relevant and appropriate for their target audiences Easily available, in different formats Capable of being easily understood by all sectors of the community Consistent Honest and accountable Timely.

8 8 Corporate Communications Strategy Who are our? A stakeholder is a person, group, or organisation that can affect or be affected by an organisation's actions, objectives, and policies. Stakeholders have varying needs and different are entitled to different considerations. Stevenage Borough Council s include: Residents of Stevenage People and organisations who use the council s services Stevenage Borough Council staff Stevenage businesses and their staff Schools and colleges in Stevenage Visitors to Stevenage Stevenage councillors The council s partner organisations Regional and national media Voluntary groups Local organisations Our neighbouring local authorities Hertfordshire County Council

9 Corporate Communications Strategy How do we communicate? We have a range of spoken and published methods through which we can communicate with you, and you can communicate with us. These include: Our Customer Service Centre Chronicle magazine Stevenage.gov.uk Regional and national media Our Facebook and Twitter profiles Neighbourhood forums Meetings with council staff Our staff magazine and intranet Online forums Council meetings Councillor surgeries Reports and policy documents Events Roadshows and displays.

10 10 Corporate Communications Strategy What do we communicate? We engage with our various stakeholder groups about the council s services and facilities. Information is provided and requested on: What services the council provides Where and how to access these services Changes to these services How the council works Who local councillors are and what their role is Where and how the council can help and support Where to go if we can t help How are or can become involved with the council s services What the council s policies are The co-operative council principles Council events and activities Events and activities in Stevenage How can influence the council s policies, plans and activities How to contact council officers and members How to provide feedback and opinions on different council policies, decisions, and activities Who our partners are and how we work with them The council s role in the wider community Successes.

11 Participation Strategy Who communicates? Communication is the responsibility of every officer and member of the council. We have a Corporate Communications Team that manages the council s communications function by providing procedures, guidance and advice, which ensures that information is exchanged in an accurate and consistent manner. The reporting structure of the team is shown below. Strategic Director (Communities) Head of Housing, Partnerships and Communications Corporate Strategy, Partnerships and Communications Manager Communications Team Leader Senior Graphic Designer Communications Officer Graphic Designer

12 12 Corporate Communications Strategy Evaluation We will regularly monitor our communications activities in order to gauge their success. Where appropriate, we will adapt our methods and messages to ensure that we continue to meet our objectives. We have in place formal measurement mechanisms for media relations (appendix 3). These are in line with communications best practice, and indicate our progress in promoting positive media coverage of the council and the town. We will continue to use the results of both formal and informal research to measure residents satisfaction with the quality and quantity of information we provide.

13 Corporate Communications Strategy Appendix 1 Summary action plan The following is a summary of the actions identified as being necessary to ensure we deliver this strategy. What Media relations Community engagement Council publications: Chronicle Reports Why Maintain a culture of two-way communication with all our Keep Stevenage residents well informed Address negative or potentially damaging information about council services Raise Stevenage s national profile Maintain a culture of two-way communication with all our Keep Stevenage residents well informed Reach all sections of the community Promote respect and trust between the council and its Keep Stevenage residents well informed Raise awareness of the council s vision Address negative or potentially damaging information about council services Reach all sections of the community Promote respect and trust between the council and its Maintain a culture of two-way communication with all our Keep Stevenage residents well informed Raise awareness of the council s vision Reach all sections of the community Keep abreast of technological developments and embrace them where feasible Promote respect and trust between the council and its

14 14 Corporate Communications Strategy What Leaflets and posters Social media Publicity and awareness Campaigns Why Keep Stevenage residents well informed Raise awareness of the council s vision Address negative or potentially damaging information about council services Reach all sections of the community Promote respect and trust between the council and its Maintain a culture of two-way communication with all our Keep Stevenage residents well informed Address negative or potentially damaging information about council services Support council staff in their roles as ambassadors for the organisation Reach all sections of the community Keep abreast of technological developments and embrace them where feasible Promote respect and trust between the council and its Keep Stevenage residents well informed Raise awareness of the council s vision Support council staff in their roles as ambassadors for the organisation Reach all sections of the community Keep abreast of technological developments and embrace them where feasible Promote respect and trust between the council and its

15 Corporate Communications Strategy What Internal communications Corporate identity and branding Website Why Maintain a culture of two-way communication with all our Raise awareness of the council s vision Address negative or potentially damaging information about council services Support council staff in their roles as ambassadors for the organisation Promote the council as an employer of choice Support elected members in their role as community leaders Keep abreast of technological developments and embrace them where feasible Promote respect and trust between the council and its Keep Stevenage residents well informed Promote respect and trust between the council and its Keep Stevenage residents well informed Raise awareness of the council s vision Promote the council as an employer of choice Support elected members in their role as community leaders Reach all sections of the community Keep abreast of technological developments and embrace them where feasible Promote respect and trust between the council and its

16 16 Corporate Communications Strategy Appendix 2 - Our performance to date In our last Communications Strategy, we committed to a planned approach to communications. At that time, our key aims were to promote what we do and to raise Stevenage s profile. To do this, we planned to distribute regular information about council services and achievements, to seek out opportunities for promoting our town in the media, and to ensure that the Stevenage Borough Council brand was clear and wellpromoted. Some of the commitments we made are shown here: We said We did We will manage the media effectively to promote and defend the council We will publish a regular residents magazine We will communicate well with staff so that they become advocates for the council We worked closely with journalists on key local and regional media to ensure our coverage was fair and balanced. This led to a positive or neutral view of Stevenage or the council in 95% of our coverage. Our press officers responded to an average of four enquiries a week from the media all within deadline. Chronicle is a well-established magazine that is delivered to every household in Stevenage up to five times a year. You regularly tell us that you find it an interesting and informative read. And many of our community groups ask us to promote their activities within the magazine. We have developed numerous ways for council staff to communicate with each other. Our dedicated staff magazine, Link, is issued every couple of months. We have a staff intranet, and an notice service. Notices and posters are displayed in all our offices, and team meetings take place regularly. All staff are invited to a roadshow hosted by the Chief Executive, and regular training events help to keep everyone informed.

17 Corporate Communications Strategy We said We will publish regular information on our performance and on how we spend our money We did Our annual report outlines our progress against our priorities and this information helps us make decisions about where to spend the budget. The Government undertakes frequent assessments of councils, and we publicise our performance in the media and in our own publications. Each year, we distribute information about Council Tax, which includes details of the money we have spent. We will investigate the use of We have a presence on Twitter and Facebook and use social media to communicate them to promote events and activities. They have also our messages proved an effective method of dialogue with local residents. We will create new promotional material about the town We will tell people how they can get involved in looking after their neighbourhoods As well as using traditional printed media to promote Stevenage, we produced a film, which is posted on Youtube where it attracts thousands of viewers. We managed a communications campaign for the Neighbourhood Forums, which included producing leaflets and posters, a new dedicated section on the website, and media coverage of individual achievements.

18 18 Corporate Communications Strategy Appendix 3 Media relations performance targets 2011 to 2014 April - July - October - January / / /15 June 2011 Sept 2011 Dec 2011 March 2012 Number of press releases issued Percentage of 75% 75% 75% 75% 78% 80% 82% issued press releases published in the media Percentage of 90% 90% 90% 90% 90% 90% 90% media coverage that is positive or neutral

19 Corporate Communications Strategy Appendix 4 Corporate Communications Team Service Standards Corporate Communications Team staff are responsible for: Promoting council services Improving the profile of the town Communicating with staff and councillors. Our media service We deal with all requests/enquiries from journalists on behalf of staff and councillors. Contact us: By telephone: or between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday By Face to face in Daneshill House, Danestrete, Stevenage Via textphone: am to 6pm By fax: Journalists can expect us to: Foster a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship Treat them with courtesy and respect Regard them as partners in providing people with timely, accurate information Make every effort to assist them with their requests/enquiries. We expect journalists to: Treat our staff with courtesy and respect Report fairly and accurately on stories about the council and the town Give the council a reasonable opportunity to provide them with facts and respond to views or accusations in opposition to the council.

20 20 Corporate Communications Strategy We will: Where possible, answer media requests / enquiries within their specified deadline Inform journalists if the deadline will not be met If appropriate, provide a spokesperson for statements and television and radio interviews Include contact details for further information in all news releases, statements and invites Place news releases and statements on our website: stevenage.gov.uk and alerts on our social networking sites Where possible, provide quality photographs to accompany news stories. If you are unhappy with the service you have received from the Corporate Communications Team you have a right to complain - you can: Telephone the Communications Team Leader, on Refer to our complaints procedure on our website: stevenage.gov.uk/complaints Ask to speak to a manager in the Customer Service Centre Complete a complaints form, available from the Customer Service Centre your complaint to: Put your complaint in a letter.

21 Corporate Communications Strategy Appendix 5 Media enquiry form Name of reporter Publication/TV/Radio programme Telephone number Enquiry received on (date) (time) Message taken by Nature of enquiry Deadline Response as follows Approved by Responded on (date) (time)

22 22 Corporate Communications Strategy Appendix 6 Press release approvals form Press release title: Draft completed Photo included? Officer approval: Sent Received Executive member approval: Sent Received SMB approval: Sent Received Any other approval: Sent Received Comms final check Photo available Sent internally Posted on website Issued to: Taken up?

23 Corporate Communications Strategy Appendix 7 - Communications plan template Background Provide a brief analysis explaining the context in which the communications will take place. Outline what events or actions have occurred to give rise to this planned activity. How does this fit with other relevant communications activities? Aim and objectives The aim should clearly follow from the background above. Objectives should be clear, concise and achievable outcomes that are capable of being measured. How the objectives align with major council policy frameworks, or communications priorities/themes. Target audience The communications activity should be able to identify a clearly defined audience or set of audiences and demonstrate how the objectives relate to each. Audience needs should be considered. Key messages What are the key facts, thoughts or ideas that this activity seeks to get across? Methods/tools/media What elements comprise the communications activity? What media/tools will be used? Budget What is the total cost of this activity and what is the breakdown of costs by activity? Timings When is this activity likely to begin? Over what period will it continue? What other relevant council activities or events will coincide with this activity? Evaluation How will this activity be measured against its objectives? What are the criteria for success?

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