In this week’s interview David Holdstock tells us more about his work in the Corporate Communications team at the London Borough of Hillingdon.
As a member of the council’s corporate management team, David heads a team that provides the professional lead on reputation management, public relations, internal communications, publications, marketing, design, consultation and e-communications.
David’s team is currently the Good Communications awards PR team of the year and council of the year.
What’s your current job and what does it involve? What are you responsible for?
The day job is Head of Corporate Communications at the London Borough of Hillingdon. I am responsible for the strategic management of the council’s communications and engagement with staff and residents.
I am also national chair of LGCOMMUNICATIONS, the professional body for council communicators aimed at raising the standard of council communications.
How did you end up doing this role?
I previously worked in all the communications teams at the Metropolitan Police Service and as head of communications at Slough Borough Council. I got into communications by starting in the internal communications and parliamentary briefing unit at New Scotland Yard and developing my skills from there.
Can you tell us about a project or campaign you’ve worked on that you’re really proud of?
The UK’s first anti-terrorism awareness campaign. Following the Docklands bomb in 1996, we launched a year-long campaign aimed at raising awareness and protecting people across the UK. The results were very successful and I am sure helped to save lives – no better measurement than that.
Tell us a bit more about Hillingdon – what are the council’s priorities for the area?
Our priorities, I guess like most councils are those which our residents put at the top of their list – the environment and community safety. We also have initiatives aimed specifically at our older and younger residents.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing local government communications today?
The current economic climate is very challenging but a real opportunity for councils to demonstrate their community leadership role and how we are delivering high quality value for money services.
How is the new comprehensive area assessment (CAA) process changing the way your council communicates?
We are now working much more closely with communications colleagues from our partners – police, health, university, college and voluntary sector. It’s in all our interests to communicate effectively as a partnership.
How is the growth of social media affecting your job/team?
It’s actually quite an exciting time – we are trying to embrace new media to support the way we communicate with our residents.
What advice would you have for a young PR professional wanting to work in public sector communications?
Enthusiasm is everything – get as much experience as you can, volunteer for everything as it will be you adding to your CV and not someone else.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Working in public sector communications is something I would recommend to all PR professionals – try it and you never know, you might just stay.
Next week it’s the turn of John Shewell from Brighton & Hove City Council to tell us more about his role – I’m particularly looking forward to this as Brighton & Hove is a unitary council that’s very similar to Medway in terms of population size and whose communications and branding I always admire when we’re visiting Brighton.