"Asking, Listening, Delivering Corporate Communications Strategy"
APPENDIX A Asking, Listening, Delivering Corporate Communications Strategy Newark and Sherwood District Council 2008 DRAFT 1 Contents Foreword Executive Summary Strategy Framework Section 1 – Strategy Introduction and Context Strategic Vision and Objectives Brand Values and Key Messages Channels and Audiences Roles and Responsibilities Section 2 – Policy Media Relations Stakeholder Communications Communications in Partnership Public Communications Councillor Communications Awards Internal Communications Section 3 – Standards Equality and Making Information Accessible The Legal Framework Governing Local Authority Publicity Issues Website Style Sponsorship and Advertising Guidelines Corporate Identity (see corporate style guide) 2 Foreword We would all like to envisage a world in which people turned out for local elections and took an active interest in their local communities. It would be a world in which people thought carefully about who they were going to elect, then trusted that person to represent their views and community on the council. Unfortunately, countless examples of newspaper headlines today show that doesn’t exist, with more people casting a vote on the outcome of reality television programmes than at the ballot box. To be completely honest, though, I am not sure if it ever existed. But what I do know is that the very best councils are seeking to address this gap between our communities and the councils and councillors that represent them. The very best councils know how to communicate with people and involve them in their work. As the title of this strategy suggests, they ask, listen and then deliver. It sounds easy, but it is not as easy to achieve. It requires a different culture in everything we do. Communications can no longer be a bolt on, a mere after thought, to the work that we do. We must all think about how to share information, canvass views and feedback how those views have shaped our decisions to a whole range of audiences. To achieve this in a coherent and consistent way, we need a first class communications strategy, which is owned and implemented across the whole organisation. Tony Roberts Leader of the council Newark and Sherwood District Council is a ‘good’ council, according to our latest Comprehensive Performance Assessment. We provide important services to the people who live in, work in and visit the district. And we have won many prestigious awards for our high quality and innovative work. We work to keep the streets free from litter and graffiti, support healthier lifestyles through our leisure centres and help bring new investment and wealth to the district. Yet how many people really understand what we do and what we stand for? Frankly, how many people think all we do is just empty their bin? What is consistently emerging through the competitive world of performance indicators, external inspections and CPA is that a successful council communicates well. And, although this has been a weakness of this council, we are now working hard to remedy the effectiveness of our communications. This comprehensive Corporate Communications Strategy gives us the blueprint to deliver first class communications across the council. But it will not work sat on a shelf. It must be a living document which guides us to deliver excellent communications in all that we do. Andrew Muter Chief Executive 3 Executive Summary This Corporate Communications Strategy has been developed to provide a strategic framework to guide the communications activity of Newark and Sherwood District Council as a whole. It provides both strategy and policy for communications work, including: A strategic vision and set of objectives – outlining the direction of communications activity for the council, which, in turn, supports the delivery of the council’s new vision and priorities A set of standards and policies, which will help achieve the strategic vision and objectives and ensure a consistent and coherent approach in service delivery, both internally and externally. These include: Corporate policies – looking at how we communicate with our key audiences including our customers, stakeholders, councillors, staff and the media Standards – covering how we do business, from equalities in communication, to the use of language, our legal framework, website, style guide (a standalone corporate style guide has been developed to accompany this strategy) and best practice in sponsorship and advertising work. To compliment this strategic framework, an annual action plan has also been developed, to address key communications issues and set performance indicators and targets for communications work. These will be monitored and reviewed on an annual basis and reported at both Cabinet and Corporate Management Team. Effective implementation across the council of the strategy, policies and action plan will: Firmly place communications as a priority on the agenda for Newark and Sherwood District Council Support the successful delivery of the council’s new vision and priorities Improve customer perception, satisfaction and the council’s overall reputation Improve consistency of message and brand awareness Improve staff satisfaction and advocacy Deliver a consistency of approach in council communications, both internally and externally Provide strong guidance to all district councillors and employees Ensure that we derive maximum benefit from our communications expenditure. A review over the responsibility of the council’s complaints policy will take place this year, as will a review over the council’s approach to consultation and engagement. 4 Section One Communications Strategy Introduction and Context Strategic Vision and Objectives Brand Values and Key Messages Channels and Audiences Roles and Responsibilities 5 Introduction and Context Newark and Sherwood District Council is, according to its latest Comprehensive Performance Assessment, a ‘good’ council. However, inspections in both 2003 and 2007 have highlighted communications as a weakness, which the authority needs to address. Over the years a fragmented and devolved approach to communications has emerged, with mixed results in terms of performance and success. Pockets of good practice do exist, but they are not shared across the council. The emphasis has largely been on services adopting their own approaches, with the service as the primary brand rather than the council. However, the emphasis is now starting to shift. A Task and Finish Group’s work on communications has led to the recent appointment of a new Head of Communications and Customer Services. In addition, resources held by some of the services have now been pooled to create a corporate communications budget. This strategy, together with its policies and supporting action plan, builds on the Task and Finish Group’s work in ensuring a coherent and consistent, one-council approach to all our communications activity, with the council easily and instantly identifiable as the primary brand. Why a Corporate Approach? The reputation of Newark and Sherwood as a distinct body is becoming more and more important. The council needs to be able to demonstrate its unique place in the district, bring community leadership and representative local democracy to the communities of Newark and Sherwood. To do this successfully requires the council to engage in two-way communication with its residents – to ask, listen, deliver and then feedback. The emergence of ‘corporate governance’ and performance league tables, through the Audit Commission, CPA and others, has raised the profile of the corporate council. Effective communication, as the council has twice found out, is a key element of success in this corporate inspection environment and recommended by both the Improvement and Development Agency (IdeA) and CPA as areas for focus and improvement. The Local Government Association’s Reputation Campaign, launched in 2005, identified a consistent one-council approach to communications, as one of its five key drivers to improving communications overall. Links with the Council’s Overall Objectives In 2007 the council adopted a new vision and set of priorities to guide the future development of the authority. The new vision is: “We want Newark and Sherwood’s urban and rural communities to take pride in being vibrant, sustainable and having a high quality of life. To achieve this we want to deliver excellent, appropriate services and value for money.” 6 The priorities are: Clean and Green – Keeping our communities tidy and environmentally sustainable Safe and Strong Communities – Less crime and anti social behaviour and a strong community spirit Economically Vibrant – Encouraging economic success Good Health and Homes – Promoting healthy and active lifestyles and good quality housing for all Culturally Active – Valuing the heritage and culture of Newark and Sherwood. And the three supporting priorities are: Value for money – being efficient and delivering good quality Raising aspirations – encouraging ambition and high achievement Accessible and responsive – making opportunities available and giving good customer service. The Corporate Communications Strategy, in conjunction with its associated policies and action plan, clearly links to the supporting priority of accessible and responsive. However, its reach goes much further. Communication with and beyond the council is essential for the effective delivery of programmes of organisational change. Through it the council sets out the intention to regularly tell people how we are making progress on tackling these priority issues, as well as how we are performing as an organisation. The strategy, policies and standards are also written with a number of other key documents in mind, including corporate Customer Service Standards, which will be developed as part of the Changing Focus programme. 7 Strategic Objectives The delivery of an annual communications action plan will address specific policy issues, but this needs to be done in line with adoption of a longer-term strategic direction for communications. Our strategic aim: “The ultimate aim of all Newark and Sherwood District Council’s communications is to build, then maintain, this council’s reputation as a well-managed, high-performing authority, providing good value, customer focussed services, to those who live in, work in and visit the district.” We will achieve this through: Improving residents’ satisfaction Measured by – improved ratings in the annual residents’ satisfaction survey Improving access to the council’s services and information, through implementing: - A customer contact strategy and associated projects - Improvements to the website Measured by – associated project plans. Benchmarks need to be set and continuous improvement sought Improving brand awareness among our residents and partners Measured by – partner engagement and feedback surveys. Targets will be set against a benchmark for continuous improvement. Ensuring staff are well informed Measured by – annual staff survey and implementation and review of new internal communication tools and mechanisms. Improving opportunities for residents’ participation in decision-making Measured by – improved ratings in the annual residents’ satisfaction survey Performance indicators and targets will be set through the annual communications and customer services plan (first one to be written 2008/9), as part of the council’s business planning process. 8 Brand Values and Key Messages The council is a diverse organisation, providing lots of different services. As a result, it conveys many different messages in its communications, ranging from the specific promotion of services and general ‘feel good’ messages, to apologies and ‘damage limitation’ statements. In addition, the council has recently adopted a new vision and set of priorities for its future developments, which it is now conveying to employees, partners and other stakeholders. This can lead to confused perceptions of what the council stands for. We need to articulate what we want to be ‘famous’ for, then emphasise and reinforce that at every opportunity. Of course, an individual’s perception will be shaped not only by the publicity they see and hear, but also by their own experience of accessing and receiving services. It is important, therefore, that these brand values are communicated to all employees and reinforced by them in service delivery. Primary Brand Values The council needs to convey its vision and priorities in a way which is easily and instantly understandable by all its audiences. We need focussed brand communications. We need to be clear about what we stand for and be known for something. This strategy, together with its accompanying corporate style guide, tries to do just that. It translates our vision and each priority into simple, easy to understand messages. The messages can be used on a standalone basis or together. The council’s vision is: “We want Newark and Sherwood’s urban and rural communities to take pride in being vibrant, sustainable and having a high quality of life. To achieve this we want to deliver excellent, appropriate services and value for money.” We will convey this vision through a strapline which states: Taking Pride in Newark and Sherwood. The council’s priorities are: Priorities Clean and green Safe and strong communities Economically vibrant Culturally active Good Health and homes 9 They will be conveyed through our communications in more focussed words, which will enable a clear understanding about what we stand for. These are: Cleaner Greener Safer Stronger Active Supporting Brand Values In addition to building a reputation for the delivery of the council’s vision and priorities, we will also want to communicate reassurance messages, which can be linked to the council’s supporting priorities, such as offering value for money. Brand value Key messages Inclusive Your council We work for everyone in Newark and Sherwood We involve people and listen to their views We are one council We treat people with respect and dignity We work with others to deliver better outcomes Good council, with quality employees We are a ‘good’ council We are a learning council We are a council which strives to constantly improve We offer good value Focussed We make a difference We are building a future We deliver Honest We act with honesty and integrity in all we do 10 We should aim to reflect the vision and values through all our communication channels, including: The title and introduction of press releases Quotes provided by officers and politicians Content of publications The way information is grouped in publications The images we use to illustrate the work we do Internal communications All our signage The web Evaluation We will evaluate key message work by monitoring: Recall in residents’ surveys and surveys amongst our partners. 11 Channels and Audiences Channels The strategy applies to a broad range of communication channels, from printed literature and media relations to web information and dialogue with partners. As a general principal, communication, in whatever format, should be: Open and honest Timely Equal and inclusive Two-way Engaging Enabling Clearly branded Offer a choice of media Fair Customer focussed Audiences The council communicates with a range of audiences – both internal and external. Effective and targeted communication with these audiences is vital to delivering the council’s vision and priorities. The choice of communication tool will depend on the audience, the level of understanding and the nature of the message. Further consideration should be given to reaching audiences who may otherwise be discriminated against on the grounds of disability, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or age. As a council we have a duty to interact with people in the local community. It is important that we engage local people in local representative democracy, raising awareness, promoting understanding and encouraging participation. We also need to engage our customers and service users in the development and improvement of our services, meeting and exceeding their expectations and delivering quality services. Communication within the council, with employees and councillors, is a priority. Well-informed and well-motivated people are our greatest ambassadors. We must also communicate openly with our stakeholders, partners and the local government family, building our reputation as a good and improving local authority. 12 External audiences Internal audiences Customers/service users All councillors General public Employees Stakeholders Trades Unions Partners Pressure/interest groups Media Local government family Central government family 13