LOCAL DIGITAL: Don’t let bright digital ideas be killed by poor comms


It was good to see localgovcamp in its spiritual home Birmingham and with it a surprise. 

Nine years ago at the first, in the first flush of my social media romance it changed how I think and do things. I wasn’t alone. A third of the 28 local government attendees that year quit their job within a few years and set-up their own company.

Reader, I was one of them.

In 2018, much has changed and not just the faces of the attendees.

One big improvement?

A nice surprise

The best surprise of all was that central government has money to reward digital projects. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on the Friday of the two-day event announced how councils could get their hands on £7.5 million.  This is great news and the local digital team from the Ministry are keen this goes to good projects. It was a coup for the event organisers to have a short video with local government minister Rishi Sunak encouraging people at the event to get their thinking cap on.

But one thing does worry me and in the spirit of working in public it is this.

Bad comms kills bright ideas

Anecdotally, new projects fail not because they are not great ideas but because the right people aren’t told about them in the right place at the right time. We’ve all been there and we’ve all seen it.

The new way of registering for a scheme is buried on a 5,000-page website.

The new approach to decision making that fails to tell staff.

We’ve all been there.

Just last week, I was reflecting on how a small thing can make or break a project. It can even be quite analogue.

Good comms can save bright ideas

It doesn’t have to be something big. It can be something small.

The cancer campaign aimed at Afro-Caribbean men which got back on track by targeting their barbers.

The NHS Trust that recruited a Roma-speaker to reach the Roma community. 

In short, bad communications will kill a good idea stone dead and good will save it.

The data says to communicate

In the spirit of insight and data driven decisions here’s some numbers from some work I did a few years ago.

15 per cent of projects succeed with no comms.

82 per cent of projects succeed if comms is thought about at the very start.

The local digital project has an element of training in it but doesn’t have basic communications skills training yet.

Sure, I’d love to help deliver that. It’s what I do. I left local government after eight years to do more in local government.

But most of all, I’d love to see people’s bright ideas not wasted.

Pic credit: Lee Harkis / Twitter

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