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What stops your communications team from being more effective? It’s a question that scores of comms leaders, council leaders, and senior directors have asked Westco to answer as part of our communication peer reviews


For the past 20 years, we have compared the use of skills, strategy, planning processes, channels, and resources across the public sector for more than 40 organisations. 

We often find that success doesn’t solely rest within the comms team itself. What is just as important is how the team is connected with the rest of the organisation. Here we look at the ten conditions vital for a high-performing communications team, with a particular focus on local government, albeit our findings are relatable to all public sector organisations.


Trusted advice and strategic planning


  1. It’s all about leadership

The ability of the comms leader to provide trusted advice to senior leaders is essential. This requires skills, experience, confidence, and nous – but also requires the right relationships to be in place with communications having an effective place in senior policy discussions.


  1. Establishing the ‘Golden Thread’

An annual comms plan should be in place showing how communication resources will be used to deliver on clearly defined organisational priorities with prioritisation systems in place. 


  1. Narrative and vision

Community or organisational priorities should be distilled in a narrative that is easily accessible for staff, communities, and partners, and should be free of jargon and acronyms. This should be regularly updated with examples of delivery which are brought to life through storytelling.


Building trust and reputation


  1. Reputation tracking

Measures should be in place to track changes in perceptions amongst staff and the community. This does not have to involve commissioning expensive surveys. These days, online surveys that track perceptions three to four times a year can be just as effective.


  1. Reputation management

The annual comms plan should include campaigns specifically designed to build trust and reputation in areas that will drive these outcomes. LGA data shows the importance of focusing on universal services such as street cleaning and parks maintenance, while engaging council tax-payers on what the council is doing to provide value for money.


  1. Strategy and planning

A communication strategy should be in place to show how resources will be used to build a stronger bridge between the council and the community. Alongside this, there should be a long-term and short-term delivery grid which sets out the delivery of pro-active and reactive priorities. We recommend daily reporting to the Cabinet and the senior leadership team to provide maximum visibility on how resources are used day-to-day.


Infrastructure and engagement 

  1. Partners and stakeholders

Infrastructure, such as a frequent bulletin and regular events, should be in place to share information across partner and stakeholder groups. Comms teams across the local area/region should identify opportunities to align priorities and share resources to achieve common aims.


  1. Strong and responsive digital channels

Data shows that people who follow their local authority on social media are more likely to be satisfied with the council. To build engagement, residents should feel that they are following the place where they live, not a bureaucracy with community-focused content which includes a focus on arts, culture, sports, and events. Social listening processes should be in place to detect major issues with the ability to respond to issues when needed. 


Strategic alignment and skills development


  1. Internal comms aligned with external priorities

Internal communications is a specialist area that requires its own resources and skills, but it should also be aligned with external priorities to ensure that there is two-way engagement on the delivery of ambitions. This requires internal comms to be planned strategically.


  1. Resources and skills

To achieve everything that we have set out, communications needs to have the right resources and skills in place with a blended approach between all-round skills and specialist skills in areas like media engagement, internal communications and digital. Skills development programmes should be in place to identify and respond to areas of development across the team which should include mentoring and other peer-to-peer support programmes.



Simon is a former chair of LGcomms. He has worked as a Head/Director of Communications in local government since 2007.

Interested in a peer review or support to improve communications? Email simon@westcocommunications.com


Simon Jones






What stops your communications team from being more effective? It's a question that scores of comms leaders, council leaders, and senior directors have asked Westco to answer a part of our communication peer reviews.


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