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Council chiefs: ‘Social media gets the facts out there, but local papers still matter’

Kevin BentleyCouncil chiefs say they are using social media as a way for their authorities to “get the facts out there” – but have insisted local newspapers “still matter”.

The Local Government Association has produced a report highlighting best practice by council communications operations across the country in association with the Public Relations and Communications Association, among others.

As part of the report, councillors from across the country have set out the communications strategy adopted by their authorities – with some touching on the role of the regional press.

Councillor Kevin Bentley, deputy leader of Essex County Council, was among those to contribute.

Cllr Bentley, pictured, said: “Simply issuing a news release is probably the least effective way of communicating. It is important to think beyond these tactics, embrace new technology and innovate through methods such as short films.

“The traditional media has a role to play, we should never forget that. Local TV, newspapers and radio still matter. But social media and other platforms have given us so many more opportunities to get the facts out there.

“If we are not prepared to that, it creates a vacuum which opposing voices will fill.”

Cllr Michael Payne, deputy leader of Gedling Borough Council, in Nottinghamshire, and deputy leader of the LGA Labour Group, also touched on how his authority works with the local press.

He said: “When our administration took office one of the first decisions we took was to make communications the specific responsibility of a cabinet member. This demonstrated to officers and members the importance we attached to it.

“We are now a ‘go to’ council for the local and regional media. We don’t do ‘no comment’, we always put somebody forward. This is important – our residents want to see human beings responding to issues, concerns and questions on their behalf.

“I am very much of the view that we are not the stewards of the council or the town hall – we are the leaders of place. If we are going to do that, we have to have a good, effective communications outfit and to listen to our partners, businesses and residents in an appropriate way.”

3 comments

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  • July 12, 2018 at 12:24 pm
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    It would be handy if Cllr Bentley answered the local papers’ questions, then, instead of referring all calls straight to the council press office.

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  • July 12, 2018 at 7:57 pm
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    Councils tell us only what they want us to know.
    Good papers tell people what they don’t want you to know.
    The Local Government Association is therefore having a laugh, and it knows it.

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  • July 13, 2018 at 10:40 am
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    authorities to “get the facts out there”
    Or propaganda? Tell the proles what you want them know, rather than what they should know.

    Of course, it’s always the elected councillors that become council mouthpiece and sacrificial goat – -the unelected officers (the real power behind the thrones) carry on regardless as the smoke and mirrors myth of democracy works its magic. 😉

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