Over the last 15 years, we have carried out more than 40 reviews of the way councils communicate. This involves investigating everything from the organisation's vision and narrative, to understanding audiences and use of channels, amongst many other things.
Whilst any service review can cause consternation amongst team members, I think it's fair to say that our reviews add value, improve the quality of council communications, and helo to save councils money.
Although our findings vary wildly from council to council, there are always some consistent themes. Here are our top five...
1. Communications are not aligned with the organisation's priorities
The most successful organisations tend to be ones where clear priorities are established to marshall all available around the delivery of a central plan. If this is missing, it's very hard for your communications team to focus on delivering the important things.
2. Lacking a compelling vision and narrative
We always look to see if there is a clearly defined vision and narrative for the organisation and if it is being communicated to staff and residents in a clear and consistent way. Like the first theme, organisations without this will not be able to focus on what is important or coherently tell their story.
3. Communications leadership is not sufficiently playing the role of trusted advisor to the Cabinet and the senior management team
If your communications counsel is not credible, confident, and trusted, this can create a disconnect between what the comms team is delivering versus what the administration wants. Communications leaders should be at the senior leaders' table asking the right questions, but they have to earn that right - they can't expect it.
4. No planning tools
We look at whether you have a communications strategy and annual plan in place, and whether you use a forward planning grid and regularly report back to the organisation about what your team is doing. Effective planning enables everyone to understand their role in delivering the organisation's priorities.
5. Communication campaigns and strategies aren't driven by data
Science should be at the heart of comms. Make sure your comms team is using data to shape its campaign activity and is monitoring and evaluating to learn and improve.
At Westco, we conduct communication reviews and audits to benchmark a council's effectiveness against best practices, identifying ways to enhance the effectiveness of the comms team's activities, ensure the best use of resources, and reduce costs.