1 Mole Valley District Council Corporate Communications Strategy
2 CONTENTS Content Section 1: Introduction Section 2: Stakeholders Section 3: Objectives Section 4: Targets Section 5: Principles of the Strategy Section 6: Policy and Actions External communications -Corporate identity -Corporate approach to consultation Internal Communications Section 7: Monitoring and Review Section 8: Communications Work Plan
3 Section 1 Introduction What is the Communications strategy The corporate communications strategy provides a strategic direction for the delivery of the Council s communications. The strategy sets corporate communications objectives and sets out broadly how the Council aims to achieve them. The strategy will be progressed through a communications work plan that sets out the detailed actions, the timescales, the costs and the responsibilities. The first work plan is included in the strategy, but will be further developed as actions are progressed. The strategy deals with the corporate management of the Council s communications, including consultation, with all stakeholders. The strategy is not concerned with detailed activities required to advertise individual services though its contents will inform those activities. The communications strategy deals with corporate identity, internal communications and an external communications each of which supports the details defined in the communications work plan. Responsibility for the strategy The strategy is approved by the Strategy Committee. A Member appointed by the Council will act as communications champion with the following remit: To act as the primary member contact for the communications team and Chief Executive on communications issues To champion good communications across the Council and to keep elected Members informed and involved. The management of this strategy lies with the corporate communications team under the responsibility of the Head of Committee Services. The corporate communications team is situated in the Committee Services Department within the Chief Executives Office. The Head of Committee Services will operate an officer communications steering group (representing all directorates) to develop and implement the actions defined in this strategy and to enable involvement from all Council Departments. Specific responsibility for consultation falls under the Head of Best Value and Performance Management but will be co-ordinated under the wider remit of this strategy. Management and staff from across the Council will be involved in the delivery of this strategy. Wherewewanttobe Mole Valley District Council has recognised the importance of good communications with all its stakeholders. The Council has embraced a programme of extensive modernisation over recent years and as a further step has introduced a Performance Management Plan (PMP). The PMP clearly sets out where the Council wants to be and cascades the Council s vision, values, goals and priorities through the organisation to deliver actions to benefit our customers. Good communications are key to contributing to the delivery of the Council s Performance Management Plan. The vision, goals, values and priorities directly influencing the
4 development and corporate management of the Council s communications are set out below. The Council s Vision The local community is satisfied Mole Valley District Council plays its part in achieving the Quality of Life the community wants. Values and Priorities Communication is one of the Values set by the council to guide everything that we do and has been adopted as a priority for action. Goals Good communications are important to the successful delivery of all the Council s goals, however communications form a key component to the successful delivery of the following three goals: Local people have access to the services they need, regardless of where they live in the District. The Council finds out what local people want and are prepared to pay for Local people are aware of the part the Council plays in their daily lives The communications strategy sets out how the Council will deliver its communications function and contribute to the achievement of the Councils Performance Management Plan.
5 Section 2 Stakeholders The table below identifies the Council s key stakeholders and evaluates the key communication issues most affecting them. The stakeholders All stakeholders Residents (including hard to reach groups) The media (national, regional, local, specialist and ethnic minority media) Partners (members of the local strategic partnership, voluntary groups, religious groups, recipients of council grants etc) Businesses National opinion formers (civil servants, ministers, MPs, think tanks, academics and national organisations such as Audit Commission, LGA and IDeA) Staff (including front line staff, managers and unions) Members (Policy committees and scrutiny) Key issues to evaluate Awareness of key messages. Involvement in key issues such as the community strategy, equality and disadvantaged communities. Identity and reputation are key issues. Two way communications and consultation including preferred sources of information, accessibility of information, contact with the council by telephone, letter, & face to face and mechanisms for effective consultation Reputation; awareness of key messages and ways to increase positive coverage in the media Awareness of key messages; effective two way communications and consultation. Identity and reputation are key issues. Reputation; awareness of key messages; contact with the council; two way communications and consultation Reputation is an important issue to facilitate good working relationships. Two way internal communications and cultural change. Developing communication skills across the council Two way internal communications & cultural change. Developing communication skills among members
6 Section 3 Objectives In order to deliver communications as a strategic function the Council has set the following communications objectives. These objectives are intended to cover the Council s relationships with its residents, customers and other stakeholders. Corporate communications objectives To inform; To listen; To involve; To ensure that timely and accurate information is available to all about Council services, policies and activities and communicate the results of consultation and action. To have an understanding of what the public want, consult with them and listen to the results. To increase involvement and interest in Council activities and to engage the public in the democratic process. Supporting the delivery of the Council s Performance Management Plan Across the Council To be effective, the corporate communication strategy is a live working document. The communications work plan will be continually updated to ensure that it remains relevant to the Council s efforts to deliver the Performance Management Plan. The communications strategy relates to the world around it, contributing to the community strategy as well as the Council's Performance Management Plan, Best Value Performance Plan, and council-wide programmes such as e-government, customer care and two-way consultation. The corporate communication strategy is owned internally not just by the communications team but by the councillors, chief executive, directors, managers, and staff. It is the people who work here at Mole Valley District Council who are essential to the delivery of the Council s communications objectives and in doing so contributing to the successful achievement of the Council s vision. The diagram on the next page outlines where the corporate communications strategy fits into the overall plans for both the council and the community.
7 The role of corporate communications Mole Valley Community Strategy Corporate Strategy (Performance Management Plan) Corporate Communications Strategy Corporate Communications Team and steering group Other Council wide strategies Communications work plan
8 The communications strategy is a vital component in delivering the Council s corporate strategy through the Performance Management Plan and hence the Council s commitment to the Community Strategy. The Council s Vision The focus of the vision is on the community (local residents and businesses) and its satisfaction with the Council s performance. To succeed in delivering this vision the Council must communicate with its community to ensure i) the community understand what a district council does and what it can do; ii) the Council knows what the community is asking for. The Council s Values The strategy promotes the Council s values and their use to guide everything that Members and employees do. This strategy will action the value of communication through the implementation of the objectives. The council will be open in two-way dialogue with the community, both listening and informing. The Council s Goals The communications strategy will action the delivery of two of the Councils goals and fulfil a key component of a third. The strategy will deliver the two goals that check what local people want and will contribute to delivering access to services. Goal G The Council finds out what local people want and are prepared to pay for This goal is fundamental to community satisfaction with the Council s performance. The council already consults quite extensively and councillors bring feedback from their constituents. However, the Council needs to consolidate and extend its out-reach, gaining both a general understanding of what people want and their views on specific services or schemes. We also need to invite feedback and encourage involvement. Goal H Local people are aware of the part the Council plays in their daily lives. The Council has not always succeeded in keeping local people well informed. communication strategy must be implemented successfully to achieve this goal. The The strategy also contributes to access to services. Goal E - Local people have access to the services they need regardless of where they liveinthedistrict. This is an important goal to achieve equality and meet needs. There are four main aspects. First, communication is needed so that local people know what is available and the council knows what individuals need. Then provision can be made either by delivering services locally, in some cases to clients homes, or by transporting customers to the services. A further option which will be explored as part of developing E-governance is to enable remote access to appropriate services.
9 Section 4 Targets Corporate communications targets In order to measure the effectiveness of the council s communications the following five year targets have been set as part of the Performance Management Plan. This strategy is intended to make progress towards these longer term targets and an interim target for April 2005 is set out in brackets below. By April 2007: 90% of residents will be satisfied that the Council plays its part in achieving the quality of life the community wants (85% by April 2005) A 10% increase will have been achieved in the % of business satisfied that the Council plays its part in achieving the quality of life the community wants (5% increase by April 2005) 90% of residents are satisfied with access to services (target for April 2005 to be set once base line information established) Annual consultation is undertaken on general budget issues from November % of residents are aware of the key services delivered by the Council (April 2005 target to be set once baseline information is established)
10 Section 5 Principles of the strategy The Council will be an effective communicator and enable the whole community to have an understanding of and involvement in the running of the Council and the services it provides. Involving our residents and other customers in service delivery improvements is an important part of the Council s approach to best value. The strategy is designed to provide an overview of communication through all means. Communication is a cross-cutting issue affecting the whole Council. The strategy comprises an overall approach, detailed and defined for practical use in further strategies and guides that should be referred to where they advise on appropriate action. Such additional reference material is highlighted within the strategy. Internal communications strategy The Council will review its internal communications and prepare and then implement actions to make necessary improvements in order to deliver the Performance Management Plan and the external communications strategy. The council will review its current training arrangements for communications and then implement actions to make necessary improvements. External communications The Council will develop a clear corporate identity to facilitate the delivery of the performance management plan including appropriate style and design guidelines to effectively manage all visible imagery and information and promote access to our services and information. The Council will develop a clear corporate brand to deliver the necessary messages and image to all stakeholders in order to achieve the goals of the performance management plan. The Council will introduce a council magazine for all residents and business to facilitate access to services, engage with the community and provide information on the Council, what it stands for and how well it is performing. The Council will produce an annual consultation plan. The Council will review its current media relations and media guidelines and implement actions to make necessary improvements. Communications work plan The Council will develop and action a communications work plan to be continually reviewed and updated that sets out the detailed actions, the timescales, the costs and the responsibilities. Monitoring Success The Council will monitor the achievement of the strategy and will review it in light of the evaluation of the information gathered and external changes to the Council s communication requirements.
11 Section 6 Policy and Actions Key components of the strategy The following section outlines the key policy components of the strategy that will be used to deliver the objectives and engage with the stakeholders identified. The work plan sets out the detailed actions that will be taken in each component. External Communications Strategy 1. Corporate Identity Leadership The Council will lead communications from the top both politically and managerially. A Member of the Council will act as communications champion with a remit to inform, involve and champion the issue across the Council. Corporate communications will be managed from within the Chief Executive s Office and the communications team will have regular access to management teams. Corporate Strategy The corporate communications strategy will be developed and implemented with senior input from elected Members and senior departmental managers. Brand Mole Valley District Council will develop a strong and consistent brand to provide a professional identify for its services and associate the good value provided by the Council to those services. The brand will be developed and implemented across the Council. The brand will be defined, managed and reviewed by members and senior managers. Logos and symbols are important but they do not represent the reputation of the organisation. That is defined by the people within it and the way they behave. The brand will define and link to the external communications strategy, to the cultural change being driven by the Council s programme of modernisation, and to internal communications. The perception of the Council s brand will be designed with the following components in mind: its overall purpose the values that underpin it the council s key messages the quality of service delivery the behaviour of staff and the way we treat our customers the look and feel of how the Council goes about its business Corporate Identity guides The corporate identity guides will define the visual representation of the council s image. This is only one aspect of the image of the council but a very important one. Appropriate guidelines for the use of corporate style, design and visual imagery will be developed and applied to all Council activities. These will be set out in a corporate style guide and a design and visual imagery guide.
12 2. Delivering accessibility through communications Openness and accessibility are key values within local government. Responsibility for ensuring accessibility of council information and publications lies with the corporate communications team under the remit of the Head of Committee Services. Responsibility for access to services and freedom of information are located across departments and are integral to the successful delivery of the communications strategy. Access issues can arise through a number of factors: disability language and ethnic background distance population profile disadvantage or social exclusion general lack of awareness of information and services freedom of information and data protection acts The corporate identity will cover all visible signage, publications and style. Key issues affecting customer care and equality of access to our services are currently being covered by a best value review of customer care. Outcomes from that review will be incorporated into this strategy. Action to implement the freedom of information act will be essential to support the delivery of many actions in the communications strategy. 3. Publications Suite The Council will produce a basic range of standard publications to a high standard. This range of publications will be known as the Council s publication suite and will include a new regular publication distributed to all residents and other stakeholders, statutory publications such as the Best Value Performance Plan and a range of basic leaflets on service delivery across departments. The suite will follow common style identified by the corporate identity 4. Website The internet is first and foremost a communications tool. Most people who use the internet currently use it to acquire information and for communicating with others. Mole Valley District Council has a website that can be found at and is a key partner in (which provides public service information across the County). The Council s website will be considered in the development of all the actions included in this strategy and will continue to be a key vehicle to promote the Council s value and core messages to the community and to provide customers with access to the information and services they want. 5. Media Relations Policy The council will review its current policies and practice in handling media relations and implement actions to make improvements.
13 6. Partners The Council works in partnership with a range of public, private and voluntary sector partners. The Council undertakes to work with its partners with the same care and the application of the same values as it uses to communicate with its residents and other customers. The Council will review how it communicates with its partners. 7. Corporate Approach to Consultation Introduction The Council has defined a corporate approach to consultation. The detail of this approach is set out below. The Communications work plan details the actions in place to take the Council s corporate approach to consultation forward. Consultation The Council consults Ask About what exists Stakeholders Influence What do you want The Council will consult with residents, customers and other stakeholders in order to find out what people want and to provide opportunity for them to influence the delivery of improvements.
14 The Council s Approach to Consultation The Council s approach to consultation is a core part of the corporate communications strategy. Successful consultation requires excellent communication to ensure that people and stakeholder groups are informed about what the Council is, what it does and how well it does it. The Council s approach to consultation is therefore based on four key principles: Tell Sell Ask Influence The mechanisms and tools identified through out this strategy will enable the Council to consult in an effective way to help it help deliver the continuous improvements in services that people want. The core components of the Council s approach to consultation are outlined below: Quality of Life in Mole Valley In order to promote the quality of life and sustainable development in Mole Valley the Council undertakes consultation on cross cutting issues affecting the future of the district. The results of this work are used to influence the development of the community strategy and the role the Council plays through its leadership and the quality of the services it provides in the quality of life in Mole Valley. Best Value Performance Plan Each year the Council will publish the Best Value Performance Plan (BVPP), which shows how services are performing through national or local performance indicators and against improvement targets. The Council will consult key stakeholders over the draft plan prior to its publication in June of each year. The Council invites feedback on the BVPP via a pre-paid reply slip or the Council website. All feedback will be analysed and reported on in future BVPPs. A summary Best Value Performance Plan is distributed to all households in the District with the annual Council Tax bill in the March of each year. Resident s Panel The Resident s Panel, made up of 1,000 residents, was created in July It is managed by consultants expert in the field of consultation, on behalf of the Council. The Resident s Panel has been re-launched as the key component of the Council s corporate approach to consultation and form an integral part of the annual consultation programme. The Resident s Panel will undertake: 2 telephone surveys of the full panel each year 2 telephone surveys of half the panel each year
15 The panel will also be utilised to form supplementary focus groups in topics defined in the annual programme and alongside the following groups: Parish Councils Town Centre Forums Residents Associations Mole Valley Tenants Action Group Hard to reach groups Chamber of Commerce Youth Council Youth Council The Council has approved the setting up of a Youth Council for the district from December Service and user consultation The council uses a range of service specific consultation activities to inform the development of its service delivery. Employees A consultation programme for employees will be developed and will consist of one major survey per year. Employees also participate as internal stakeholders in the approved Best Value Review programme. There are regular consultative meetings with employee representatives. Annual Consultation programme In order to continue to develop the effectiveness and efficiency of the Council s consultation the Council will now manage all consultation as part of its communications strategy. The Council will prepare an annual consultation programme to fulfil the Council s statutory and local requirements. The objectives of the programme are: (i) (ii) (iii) (iv) To ensure that customer satisfaction data is available on services included in the forthcoming year's Best Value Reviews. To establish an annual programme of consultation with groups of customers, which can feed into the Best Value Reviews and improvement monitoring cycle and which minimises the number of times particular groups of customers are consulted about Council services. Customer Satisfaction Surveys are conducted on a three yearly cycle compliant with the criteria and methodology set by the former Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions on Housing, Revenues and Benefits, Leisure and Community Safety. Other major departmental issues Departments will seek to jointly commission surveys both within and external to the Authority in the interests of cost effectiveness and in order to avoid consultation overload in the community.
16 The annual programme will include, amongst others, the following areas: The Budget Best Value Performance Plan Customer satisfaction surveys Community planning / Local strategic partnerships Crime and disorder partnership A major employee survey per year A major corporate topic Feedback The Authority undertakes to feed back to consultees on how their views have been taken into account and on any actions taken as a result of consultation, through any of the following methods: Publishing information on the Council s website Publishing an article in the local press Reporting via the annual Best Value Performance Plan Reporting back key results to the Resident s Panel directly Publishing information in a Council Publication distributed to all residents and stakeholders 8. Internal Communications Internal communications strategy Good internal communication is a key factor to healthy organisation and critical to delivering cultural change to improve services. Internal communications are used to ensure staff understand the Councils vision, values, goals and priorities and feel informed and listened to. Staff need to feel valued and have the information and skills they need to do their jobs well. Managers need to be skilled in motivating and communicating with their staff. The Council will develop an internal communications strategy to build upon the communication mechanisms already used. The Council has in place corporate and departmental management team meetings and briefings across the organisation, and a staff newsletter published and distributed to all employees five times a year. The Council has in place an induction programme for new staff and an annual system of appraisal to enable feedback and communication. The Council provides training to staff where need is identified.
17 Section 7 Monitoring and Review It is important that the success of this strategy is monitored and evaluated, and that it remains a working and relevant tool to progress the Council s vision, values, priorities and goals. Monitoring the strategy Progress against the targets set in this strategy will be monitored and reported as planned and used to inform the review of the council s strategic communications. Reviewing the Strategy This strategy sets out the corporate direction for communications to April The effectiveness of the intended outcomes will then be monitored and the strategy reviewed and revised. Some of the actions will result in the production of component parts of this strategy. Where necessary they will include their own review and monitoring mechanisms. The strategy will be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure the actions are helping the Council to reach its communications objectives and succeed in achieving its vision.
18 Section 8 Communications work plan The work plan will be updated as the actions are progressed and from April 2003 will be the comprehensive plan for the Council s corporate communications. The work plan is divided into three phases to define the planned completion dates for each action or activity. Many of these activities will be initiated in an earlier phase. Full project plans will be developed once the corporate communications team is in place. Phase 1- October March 2003 Corporate Activities Action 1 The Council will appoint a Communications Officer to report to and support the Head of Committee Services to manage the implementation of the communications strategy. The corporate communications team will then be established under the management of the Head of Committee Services. Action 2 The Head of Committee Services, supported by the Communications Officer and the communications steering group (comprising representatives of all directorates), will manage the development and implementation of the internal and external communications strategies to meet the objectives set out in this, the corporate communications strategy. Action 3 The corporate communications team will work with an external company to develop the corporate identity with appropriate operational policy and identity manual containing style, design and imagery guidelines for approval by Members. Action 4 The communications team will prepare an implementation timetable for the corporate identity. External communications strategy Action 5 The Head of Committee Services will present options to Members for a new corporate publication as a means of communicating regularly with every householder and other stakeholders. Action 6 The communications team will prepare and implementation timetable for the new corporate publication.
19 Action 7 The Head of Best Value and Performance Management will work within the parameters of this strategy to develop and oversee the implementation of the Council s annual consultation programme. Internal communications strategy Action 8 Current internal communications activities will continue and be supplemented to support the implementation of the Council s performance management plan, including continued development and use of the Council s intranet as a key tool to improve our internal communications. Monitoring, Review and Evaluation Action 9 The corporate communications team will monitor the implementation of the communications strategy and work plan and produce an update report for Members and staff. Phase 2- April 2003 March 2004 Corporate Activity Action 1 The communications team will prepare and maintain the communications work plan detailing the implementation of the Council s communications. External communications strategy Action 2 The communications team will review the Council's relations with the media, including staff skills and training, and recommend a new media relations policy. Action 3 The communications team will prepare an implementation timetable for the media policy. Action 4 The Head of Best Value and Performance Management will work with the communications steering group and the corporate communications team to review and further develop the corporate approach to consultation and to continue to develop an annual consultation programme. Action 5 The communications team will identify the Council s key suite of publications and ensure they meet the objectives and policies contained in the communications strategy.
20 Internal communications strategy Action 6 The corporate communications team will work with the Head of Personnel to review existing internal communications and recommend a revised internal communications strategy, including an action plan, to form part of the corporate communications strategy. Action 7 The communications team will prepare the implementation timetable for the internal communications strategy including a communications training policy. Monitoring, Review and Evaluation Action 8 The corporate communications team will monitor the implementation of the communications strategy and work plan, evaluate progress and produce an update report for Members and staff. Phase 3- April 2004 March 2005 Corporate Action 1 The communications team will produce and maintain the communications work plan detailing the activities the Council will take to implement the communications strategy. External communications strategy Action 2 The communications officer will monitor and review the implementation of the new brand and corporate identity, and the new Council publication and key suite of publications. Action 3 Following the introduction of the corporate identity for the Council and the launch of a corporate publication to all residents and other stakeholders, the corporate communications team will review the funding of communications across the authority in order to seek to rationalise and make best use of funding. This exercise will help to define the publications that should form the Council s core suite and support the review of the publications suite. Monitoring, Review and Evaluation Action 4 The corporate communications team will monitor the implementation of the communications strategy and work plan, evaluate progress against the corporate targets, produce an update for Members and staff, and develop a revised strategy for April March 2008.
21 COMMUNICATIONS WORK PLAN FINANCIAL CONSIDERATIONS Current Costs Existing Corporate communications budgets will now be directed through this strategy. The budgets include: The Council currently provides a Council Tax/Best Value Performance Plan summary every March costing in the region of 14,000. Consultation costs for Best Value and the community strategy. Publicising the Best value Performance Indicators (statutory). Various advertising is undertaken by Departments much of which will be unaffected by the production of corporate publication. There is some advertising undertaken as one-off projects which might be capable of inclusion in the regular publications. Additional financial resources are required to deliver the communications strategy. These are outlined below including specific existing resources being used to support the implementation. Phase One and Phase Two There are three areas of redirected and new spending to be included in Phases One and Two of the communications work plan. Without the commitment of these resources the work plan will not be implemented, the strategy will not achieve its targets or objectives and the Council will not achieve the vision and goals established in the corporate strategy (Performance Management Plan). Council Publication Production of a Council publication (three times per annum (eg March/July and December) would provide regular communication with the Council's customers. The Council currently produces a Council Tax/Best Value Summary every March at an approximate cost of 14,000. It is suggested that the March document be expanded to double its existing size (to A5 x 32 pages instead of the current 16 pages) for a total cost of approximately 16,500. To produce 2 new editions of the publication of A4 x 16 pages would cost an additional 18,500 for print and distribution. The costs set out include personal mailing for the Mach edition (which will include the council tax bill) and for Royal Mail door-to-door delivery of the remaining two editions per annum. It is estimated that approximately 10 days would be required to produce the copy for each magazine. In the first instance it is suggested that an external copy writer undertake this work to allow the Strategy to be implemented and the first magazines to be produced (estimated to cost approximately 5,000 per edition). Corporate Identity development It is possible to carry out a low-key brand development which would enable a corporate identity to be produced (with or without a logo or symbol) following consultation with a focus group of customers or using the Residents' Panel. Initial findings indicate that such a piece of work could be undertaken for in the region of 10,000. This can be accommodated within the current year's budget for Public Involvement. This budget has been identified as a saving for 2003/04 onwards.
22 Client Management and progressing the strategy To commence implementation of the Strategy, client manage the development of the corporate identity and council publication, and undertake the provision of internal actions identified in the work plan, requires the appointment of a new post of communications officer to supplement existing time from the Head of Committee Services and the Committee Services Team. This will create a corporate communications team within the Committee Services Department. Funding will be needed for the current financial year to appoint the communications officer from 1st December 2002 ( 10,700). Further funding would then be required to maintain the post in future budget years. Costs for Financial year Items Cost Design, print and distribution of increased council tax 16,500 mail out publication Copy costs 5,000 Communications Officer 10,700 Corporate Identity costs 10,000 Total cost 42,200 Existing spend 24,000 Total New spend 2002 /03 18,200 Costs for 2003/04 financial year Items Cost Design, print and distribution of increased council tax 16,500 mail out publication Design, print and distribution costs of two additional 18,500 publications Copy costs 15,000 Communications Officer 32,000 Total cost 82,000 Existing spend (given inflation at approx. 2%) 14,500 Total New spend 2003 /04 67,500 Phase Three It is not possible to forecast full costs for implementation of Phase Three of the Strategy as these will be developed further over the coming year. Implementation of Phases Two and Three of the Strategy will allow the process to be reviewed and may identify efficiency savings possibly including the following if a Council publication is produced: Include advert for Best Value Indicator results Community Strategy communication Waste Management updates Rationalisation of existing consultation and communication processes Various advertising undertaken by departments in relation to services Potential advertising revenue Consultation on Political Management Arrangements Rationalisation of distribution methods.
23 Any activity requiring financial resource not identified in this work plan will be included in the Council s budget process and put forward in a revision of the communications strategy and work plan.