Strategic communications benefit councillors

Written by: Paul Morris

July 18, 2014 - 11:06 am
Categories: Communication , Local Government

Following local government elections in May we have a fresh crop of councillors at Lambeth who are eager and enthusiastic to serve their communities.

To that end and to prepare them for what lies ahead, a number of staff are leading training sessions around specialist areas and I was asked to devise one around communications.

Tackling it was tricky. The vast majority of councillors are excellent communicators. They have to be to get elected. Most have Twitter accounts, blogs and websites, while others use email newsletters in addition to hosting weekly surgeries or street events.  They understand that variety is integral in their approach given the diversity of communities they represent, and they know that regular dialogue is vital if they are to be effective.

The fact is they are accomplished, so deciding how to approach this task was my challenge and dilemma.  A quick straw poll of colleagues revealed that while councillors are first-rate tacticians, most would benefit from some support around strategy. Specifically, some tips around managing stakeholder engagement given the heavy numbers of people, groups, and interested parties which will seek out and try and influence their elected member.

I’m an advocate of Johnson/Scholes’ model for campaign planning. I’ve had a lot of success and saved time and effort by nominating early which stakeholders could be helpful to me in a campaign, which could throw spanners in the works, those which would back our cause, or those we need to shake up a bit because their involvement could be pivotal.  Once you’ve done that, devising tactics becomes simpler.

So I adapted Johnson/Scholes to create a version that councillors would find helpful. Given that councillors have competing pressures, plotting those stakeholders which matter most to achieving their ward objectives now and thinking about the appropriate tactics to remain in contact with them will save time and effort in the long run. And ultimately, their chances of success are boosted.

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