Communications Strategy

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1 Communications Strategy April 2009 March

2 Introduction Since the launch of its Communications Strategy , Lincolnshire County Council has made good progress in implementing and addressing its objectives and recommendations. This strategy reflects new developments, including revised brand guidelines, a new employee communications strategy, a corporate focus on direct communications to residents, an updated consultation strategy and a new community engagement and empowerment strategy. These, together with a refreshed media strategy, an improved and relaunched residents newspaper, the addition of a social media channel and an improved choice of channels for employees, have greatly enhanced the council s communications with employees and the public. These improvements mean that residents are in receipt of a wider range of relevant, clear and easily accessible information than ever before. Furthermore, these channels reinforce the council s ability to speak with the public, partners and employees about its aims and achievements with one voice. Purpose This strategy seeks to: help the council achieve the objectives in its business plan and those of the Sustainable Community Strategy continuously develop and strengthen the council s reputation with residents, partners, employees and opinion formers be the strong voice that informs residents and the listens to their opinions and concerns help the council to encourage residents to become involved in local democracy, decision-making and improving their communities encourage individuals and communities to play a part in improving and developing services Equality & Diversity When communicating, the council will endeavour to meet the needs of all people living in Lincolnshire. It will ensure that the needs of all groups in the community are considered when choosing the most appropriate communication channels through which corporate information and news is issued or promoted. The council is keen to ensure that everyone have access to effective information channels, regardless of age, ethnicity, disability, religion, sexual orientation or gender. The Equality Impact Assessment for this service is attached. The council has developed a set of Accessible Communications Guidelines 1 which provide guidance on accessibility issues and a consultation toolkit which gives advice on ensuring that we reach a wide audience when undertaking consultation, including those communities which are thought to be hard to reach (for instance migrant workers, people with learning difficulties etc). Developing issues What are the key communication and community engagement issues for Lincolnshire County Council over the next two years? A need to choose the most effective internal and external channels in which to invest increasingly limited resources, while meeting the needs of all residents and employees.

3 How to manage the so-called social media which introduce new, time-efficient and almost cost-free channels which can be used to inform and interest specific age-groups of residents and employees in the work of the council. A continuing focus on promoting to residents the council s services and how the council acts to protect the county s present and future interests. A need to review the intranet and refresh key content available to employees. Identifying and taking up opportunities for cost-effective joint communication and consultation projects with district councils, Police and Health. Raising the percentage of the public who feel informed about the council and who are actively involved in the local democratic processes and community activities Seeking out opportunities to work in partnership to deliver Lincolnshire s Sustainable Community Strategy and Total Place campaigns. Promoting awareness and understanding of the council s role The county council will aim to maintain its brand identity in the face of increased partnership working through: Using the council brand prominently on all county council services Joint branding agreements with partners that appropriately reflect the council s contribution Raise the public s awareness of the role and contribution of the county council as a provider of services and community leader. Continuing to improve the quality and reach of public information about council services and policies. Communicating with the public The council communicates with a range of audiences. Typically, the not-exhaustive groups of external audiences include: All residents Residents with extra or special needs The media (third party to the public) Service users - including those with learning and/or physical disabilities Partner agencies, voluntary groups and organisations The business community Opinion formers (including MPs, MEPs, senior civil servants, central government, district councillors, parish councils and regional government agencies) District, town and parish councils Visitors to Lincolnshire

4 Internal audiences include: Employees (around 7,000, excluding school staff) Managers County Councillors Staff of organisations contracted to carry out county council functions Trades Unions The means of communication with these groups will span a wide variety of printed, electronic and face-to-face methods. Listening to the public The county council welcomes and actively encourages residents and interest groups to participate in local decision-making. It actively seeks opinions through a programme of consultation carried out in a number of formats for widest accessibility. Additionally, residents are encouraged to respond or comment on council proposals and decisions, to give feedback on service standards or to complain where our standards have not been met. Roles Media relations The media relations team is responsible for promoting the Council to the public through local, regional, national print and broadcast media. The media relations team issues corporate and service media releases, and builds relationships with editors and journalists to ensure fair and accurate coverage of council news. The media team also produces a daily electronic update of the council s media coverage for employees and manages news sent via social media channels. Internal communications The internal communications team keeps employees informed about council policies, important events, service news and training and development opportunities. It also manages the corporate induction programme and Lincolnshire Stars, the council s employee recognition programme. Corporate communications The Corporate Communications team communicates directly with all residents. This team produces the residents newspaper, Inside Lincolnshire, and manages county-wide campaigns to promote public awareness of council policies, initiatives and service campaigns. It also manages the council s presence at public events, including the Lincolnshire Show. The team is responsible for maintaining a strong corporate identity across the council, and for managing high-quality internal and external events.

5 Community Engagement The community engagement team makes sure that consultations are timely and effective and offer all types of residents the opportunity to take part. This team maintains the community database. The team also manages the council s relationships with its partners as they work together to carry out activities related to the Local Area Agreement and the Sustainable Community Strategy. Part of the team s role is to look at residents perceptions of Lincolnshire and the services LCC and its partners offer. The team also gathers customer intelligence that is used to improve services through the council s Customer Experience programme. Opportunities ahead Opportunities exist to collaborate with district councils, Health and Police across many areas of communication in Lincolnshire, including consultation and campaigns supporting the Sustainable Community Strategy themes and, currently, the University-led Take Part programme to encourage residents to become active in their communities and in local democracy. The council s newspaper, Inside Lincolnshire, delivered to every home in the county, has a reach which cannot be equalled or bettered by any one local newspaper. It is the council s single most cost-effective opportunity to speak to every resident and its value will be maximised through an effective editorial strategy. Further focus on proactive media relations that gain the council and its employees positive coverage in the national local government press and professional journals. The impact of using social media as a way of reaching specific groups of people will be assessed for its value as a channel. Internal communications will focus on helping the council to manage natural change and keep employees informed and motivated during specific change in anticipation of the impact of reduced local government budgets after 2010/11. Evaluation of communication and engagement Evaluation of channels and effectiveness of this strategy will be by Place Survey (full results expected in Autumn 2009), online poll, employee survey, communications survey, Inside Lincolnshire readership survey and focus groups, and media evaluation. Finance and resource implications The Communications & Community Engagement service continues to make year-on-year efficiency savings and continues to aim to provide a value-for-money service to residents. Reference number: C039 Published: September 2009

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