Councils have a key role to play in the response to COVID-19 and an effective response requires working closely with local partners and specialist services.
Communications plays a vital role in ensuring that partnership working is strategic and effective in coordinating a local response to COVID-19. There is a vast amount of information circulating about COVID-19, and effective partner communications will ensure that the right information reaches the right people at the right time.
Kent County Council has been working with local authorities, the voluntary and community sector, the NHS and other partners to support public health messaging and ensure adherence to social distancing measures. The seeks to galvanise community spirit and generate positivity. The campaign concept was created by Kent Fire and Rescue Service and has been rolled out to all the Kent Resilience Forum partners. The council’s #KentTogether helpline to support vulnerable residents has taken 3,572 referrals and 5,148 requests for help since it launched on 1 April.
- Ribble Valley Borough Council works with Clitheroe Advertiser and Times
Ribble Valley is one of the sparsest boroughs in England, with patchy broadband coverage and an above average elderly population, so the council can’t rely on social media solely to communicate with their residents. The communications team secured a week-on-week deal for half of page 3 of their weekly newspaper, the Clitheroe Advertiser and Times, at an extremely competitive rate for a series of adverts with the council’s ‘We’re here for you’ slogan. The newspaper was very keen to be part of the community response to COVID-19. Although the newspaper’s advertising revenue has fallen, subscriptions have risen, so has proven an effective communications tool for the council.
- Surrey Communications Group
The Surrey Communications Group is a long established 100 strong network of public sector communicators from across Surrey. It is made up of the county, district and borough councils, NHS bodies, the emergency services, colleges, universities and several charities. The group, which encourages partnership working and facilitates cross-sector discussions and activities, has come into its own during this crisis.
Apart from contributing to the regular Multi-agency Information Group calls, information, campaigns and images are being created and shared to ensure the information reaches as many Surrey residents and businesses as possible through every channel available to the organisations. A top lines brief, which includes government and local messaging, is shared each day with partners.
The Group has created an infographic which sums up the Surrey response so far and is developing an online space under the banner #SurreyTogether to host a video and positive case studies to reflect the activities taking place.
The group was collaborative and united before the crisis, but recent events have emphasised the fantastic partnership working and support the group provides, as well as demonstrating we are always stronger together.