At Lancashire Council we have restructured our internal communication teams across the authority to reflect the recent organisational changes and accountability within the local authority, particularly the split of adult and children’s social care.
From 1 April the council has adopted a devolved system of separate teams providing communication support tailored to the issues and needs of the three main directorates – adult & community services, environment, and children’s services.
Each communication team provides integrated communication advice and support including media relations and publicity (press office), web development, internal communications and public information including ensuring information is fully accessible, for example, easy read, Braille, and translation.
The advantage of dedicated teams that sit within each directorate is greater knowledge of the services and issues, closer working with senior managers, policy and operational staff, focused and strategic communication that support each directorate’s business plan and priorities agreed by the relevant director. Each communication manager links directly to the director and cabinet member.
The council still has a corporate communication function and team which focus on corporate issues such as budget, council tax, constitutional affairs, cabinet, and local democratic business, not necessarily on specific services.
The teams work together, share best practice and information where relevant through a formal communication senior management team.
These changes have saved the authority money using less staff, avoiding duplication while improving effective integrated communication support dedicated to meet the needs of each directorate and its services with clear lines of accountability.
For example, recently our communication team supported the official launch and rollout of the council’s new telecare service. This uses high-tech devices and sensors to monitor and support older people and those with disabilities in their home across the county. It is seen as a high priority service for the directorate and its adult social care teams.
Having a dedicated communication team meant that we were able to be involved in planning meetings with senior operational managers and partner agencies at an early stage in order to advise and manage the whole communication process for rolling-out telecare among internal and external audiences.
The team was already fully aware of how telecare fits the adult social care agenda. An agreed communication strategy was implemented involving publicity and promotional work, leaflets and public information. A dedicated website page about telecare was developed within the team as an important information tool and linked to the publicity campaign for the public.
Information about telecare has also been integrated into the council’s adult social care leaflet which is produced and scrutinised through a reader group involving social care staff and service users. An easy read version for adults with a learning disability and large print leaflets have been produced to ensure information is fully accessible. Leaflets were then distributed to local social care offices and in libraries.
The communication team also advised on how best to communicate and promote telecare to all staff within the directorate, using the intranet and the director’s new and popular blog (also managed by the communication team).
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Andrew Lynn is communication manager, Lancashire Council and north west regional representative for ASCC.