One theme that has emerged strongly this year in local government communication has been how the role of the communications team is changing.
The value of behavioural marketing is finally being recognised as being an important and under-utilised tool in delivering public services.
But what has really resonated with me has been the growing recognition that communications teams aren’t the only answer to effective communication.
Of course communication channels need managing professionally, but the greatest volume of communication between a public body and the people it serves doesn’t go through the communications team – it is through the people working across the organisation.
It’s the same in any service sector company too. And it’s been made even more so by the use of digital tools to connect staff and customers together as well.
So that means the role of the communicator is changing.
There needs to be a greater focus on internal communication, particularly as an enabler of a broader drive to enhance employee engagement.
I’ve heard this shift as being described as the need to create an army of narrators – with effective communicators enabling this to happen and being active listening and sharing nodes within formal and informal networks inside the organisation.
For a long time communicators have wanted to be the striker on the team, passed the ball in front of the goal and being the one to put the ball in the back of the net (and at times, dare I say it, take the accompanying glory as well).
We’ve wanted to have control of as much communication as we can to shape messages and own channels – seeing our role as being the final stage in the journey of information from deep within our organisation to the outside world.
But actually the role of communicators should be more like a roving midfielder, not afraid to move comfortably around the pitch linking together moves and helping the team function effectively. The role is as much about listening, engaging and facilitating as it is about being out front for the team all the time.
Sometimes we’ll still get a shot on target and be the people who get information out, but much of the time it’ll be others on the team that get the goal. And it doesn’t matter who gets the goal as long as that goal is what the organisation needed to deliver its objectives.
Of course there are some activities that remain exclusively the communicator’s domain as specialist skills and experience are valuable, but things are starting to shift as the scale and value of genuine interactions with audiences are recognised in their own right.