Communications and engagement strategy 2023/25

Contents:

Scope

Communications aligned to our mission and priorities

Residents’ satisfaction with communications

Strategic communications approach

Communications aligned to Cornwall Council’s vision and values

Our core communications principles

Communicating with our key audiences and stakeholders

Context for how we communicate

Using census data to understand our audiences

An overview of Cornwall Council’s direct communications channels

Our comms team structure

Our story – where are we now?

Efficiency 

Objectives for communications for the next period

Success measures for the next year

Giving children and young people a voice in Cornwall

Review process

Scope

Cornwall Council is on a mission to transform the way in which we deliver and enable hundreds of services for the residents of Cornwall in the years to come.

Clear, timely engaging communications are essential to helping our residents understand our mission. Whether its keeping residents informed, encouraging the take up of services, the experience you get when dealing with one of our customer service team, engaging with our workforce, transforming the Council, reputation management, and of course, the delivery of the Council’s business plan and priorities – good communications is at the heart of what we do as an enterprising and empowering organisation.

Communications aligned to our mission and priorities

Cornwall Council’s mission is working with communities for a carbon neutral Cornwall, where everyone can start well, live well and age well.

 This mission is underpinned by four priorities, to make Cornwall:

  • A brilliant place to be a child and grow up
  • In a thriving, sustainable Cornwall that offers a secure home, a decent income and a great environment for all
  • As part of vibrant, safe, supportive communities where people help each other to live well
  • All supported by our Council - an empowering and enterprising organisation that gets it right first time for our customers.

 

The communication and engagement strategy will support this mission, by promoting and explaining what we do as a local authority to serve the residents of Cornwall.

Residents’ satisfaction with communications

Residents are at the heart of our work and Cornwall Council currently undertakes at least one residents’ survey a year to understand what residents think about the services we provide.

The residents survey provides vital insight for communications, as it gives an in-depth, place-based analysis to understand the key drivers of residents' satisfaction in Cornwall, including:

  • Value for money
  • Being well informed
  • Clean and green environment
  • Local infrastructure & facilities
  • Quality of service
  • Ability to influence decisions

This data is reviewed following every survey and directly influences the content of our weekly email to residents.

View latest residents survey

Strategic communications approach

With the Council’s budget always under considerable financial pressure, achieving value for money communications is a priority – so we take a strategic approach to communications, which:

  • prioritises free and low-cost communications over paid-for advertising.
  • favours “team Cornwall” partnership working with stakeholders to share content, channels and maximise our audience reach; and
  • prioritises communication of the Council’s mission, and delivery of the priority outcomes set out in the Council’s Business Plan 2022 – 2026
    and each of the four outcome delivery plans.

Communications aligned to Cornwall Council’s vision and values

Cornwall Council’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy describes what we plan to do over the next four years to level up life chances across the diverse communities of Cornwall.

Cornwall Council introduced the Cornwall Development and Decision Wheel in 2020 as a mechanism to explore some of the issues that need to be considered when delivering a change to services policies or practices.

A key recommendation from the 2023 Equality and Diversity Peer Review was to ensure that we use the decision wheel to assess our Communications and Engagement Strategy, to ensure we reach out to all communities.

You can find the Communications and Engagement Strategy decision wheel here

Our core communications principles

The underlying principle of all communications in the Council, for all audiences, is that there must be two-way communications with meaningful opportunities for the audiences to respond and the Council to listen.

This is in line with the mission and the values we hold as an organisation.

There is a consistent and strategic approach to communications across the Council, using best practice. The following core principles complement the above and underpin the communications strategy:

  • Follows the code of recommended best practice on Local Authority Publicity
  • Clear, consistent and honest We will use plain English that is free from jargon and easy to understand. Where technical terms are used, we will try to explain them fully.
  • Reflecting of our diversity and supporting the Cornish language by including forewords in Cornish in all key documents and using imagery and language that fully reflects the diversity of Cornwall and our audiences.
  • Open and transparent – making information as widely available as possible. All residents and stakeholders should be able to easily find relevant information about the Council and how it is making a difference to their quality of life, in turn enabling them to better understand, assess and contribute to our work.
  • Targeted, relevant and timely – recognising the need to tailor communications for and targeting specific audiences.
  • Accessible - communications should be accessible for all, reflecting the diverse needs and preferences of our audiences.
  • Digital first - In line with the Council’s digital transformation, the team has for some time been working on the principle of digital first. This not only increases efficiency and reduces costs but is also more environmentally friendly. However, a range of communication methods are deployed to reach all our audiences, including those with limited or no digital access.
  • Collaborative - building on Cornwall’s strong history of partnership working, we utilise both formal and informal partnerships to maximise and improve engagement with all our residents and communities. By working together and finding creative solutions we can create understanding and tackle inequalities.
  • Insight-led and evidence based – our communications are guided by audience insight that are evidence based and measured for effectiveness and we adopt industry best practice methods.
  • Value for money - our communications are based on best value for money, and we work with partners wherever possible to achieve best value for money and increase the Council’s audience reach.

Communicating with our key audiences and stakeholders

Cornwall Council works with a wide range of partners across a number of sectors and communities every day to deliver the aims and objectives of our organisation. These are our “stakeholders”. Wherever we can, we work as “team Cornwall” with our partners to deliver the mission and priorities. Good communications are essential to keep our stakeholders informed.

This is by no means a full list; however, they include:

  • Our 570,000 residents, customers and service users
  • The 87 elected members of Cornwall Council
  • Our employees
  • The 213 town and parish councils in Cornwall
  • Local MPs
  • Our group of companies and delivery partners (including Corserv, Treveth, Cornwall Airport Newquay, Housing partners, Adult social care partners etc)
  • Charity and voluntary sector partners
  • Environmental groups and communities
  • The Cornwall Isles of Scilly Leadership Board
  • The integrated Cornwall and Isles of Scilly health and social care system
  • Our business community and potential investors
  • Local community groups and forums, including our new Community Area Partnerships
  • Local people and groups who help inform and influence our residents
  • Local, regional, trade and national media
  • The Local Government Association (LGA) and County Councils Network
  • His Majesty’s Government (HMG) and the devolved nations.

The corporate communications team has a wide range of direct and indirect, digital and non-digital, paid-for and free channels to reach different audiences. It is the role of the communications and engagement team to determine how to keep these audiences well informed by making the most of all available channels, whilst ensuring the best value for money.

Context for how we communicate

We use data from a wide range of sources to understand our audiences including the way in which they seek out and receive information and media trends.

The importance of digital communications in people’s lives has grown exponentially in the last decade. Its importance has accelerated since the Coronavirus pandemic, and this has changed the way residents consume information.

We know that ninety-six per cent of all households in the UK are now connected to the internet and 86% of all adults now own a smartphone.

Our Digital Inclusion Programme in Cornwall focusses on everyone who wants to be connected. We guarantee the availability and accessibility of the Internet and digital devices as well as affordable access to them and to essential digital skills support. Through our Embedded Digital Champion programme, we encourage equitable participation in safe, discrimination-free spaces with trusted frontline workers.

But there are residents who for a wide range of reasons cannot or do not wish to access information online. This leaves us with the challenge and responsibility to ensure that Cornwall Council reaches all of our residents, not simply those who can access information online.

According to figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), print circulation continues to decline nationally and regionally, however there are several local printed newspapers available for residents in Cornwall and they are a trusted source of information. Given our commitment to reach those residents who do not have access to the internet or a smart phone, working with the local media outlets remains important to the organisation.

Research by Reuters shows that whilst receiving news on-line is the new normal, citizens have real concerns about trust when it comes to social channels. Broadcasters including the BBC are still regarded as the most trustworthy sources of information, however “news avoidance” has grown significantly in the last six years with the number of adults talking a strong interest in the news dropping by a quarter.

This, together with the introduction of AI (Artificial Intelligence) into communications such as Chat GPT, means that organisations need to work harder than ever to establish trust and reach our audiences.

Our communications strategy reflects the growing importance of digital yet recognises the need to communicate with those who may find themselves digitally excluded and those who are less likely to engage with the Council through traditional channels and methods – so that we are able to reach all our residents and fully reflect our equality and diversity strategy. We will continue to prioritise those channels owned by Cornwall Council which allow us to speak directly to residents.

Using census data to understand our audiences

Cornwall’s population make-up is measured every ten years through the UK census. The last census details from 2021 show:

  • Cornwall’s Population grew by 7.1% in 10yrs
  • Our population is getting older and life expectancy is rising
  • There are fewer young people than the UK average, but this is changing as education / prospects improve
  • 9% identify as Cornish and this is on the up
  • There is a small but growing black, Asian and ethnically diverse population – doubled in 10 years
  • Cornwall has 0.1% gypsy and traveller population
  • Sexual orientation data was collected for the first time in 2021.

The census gives us a real insight into the ways in which Cornwall is changing and the audiences we need to reach with our communications. For every group of stakeholders, there is a wide and diverse number of communities, audiences and groups who we need to target and reach with information about the work of Cornwall Council.

Some of these audiences have protected characteristics and we have a duty to ensure that we do everything we can to reach these audiences according to our Equality and Diversity Strategy.

Understanding the influences, preferences and formats for how these audiences receive information help us to reach them more effectively.

Working with the Equality and Diversity team in the coming year we will develop a set of standards for communicating with audiences who have protected characteristics and work closely with organisations, communities and local networks who can help to reach them.

An overview of Cornwall Council’s direct communications channels

Where we can, Cornwall Council will continue to prioritise direct communication with residents and stakeholders using a wide range of channels.

  • Our website attracts 40million page views and 3.5m users each year. We post key news stories on the home page which link through to our news section, which is updated daily with media releases
  • 130,000+ residents receive the latest information from the council on a wider range of services via our weekly resident’s e-newsletter Stay in Touch
  • Media releases are issued first to residents directly through our website and social media. We issue releases to local, regional and national news outlets
  • The Council’s Facebook account has 35,100 followers
  • The Council’s Twitter account has 53,200 followers
  • Let’s Talk Cornwall is an online platform run by Cornwall Council to engage digitally with our residents and has been visited by over 340k visitors since its start date, achieving an engagement rate of 30.5%
  • Online marketing to reach specific audiences: we reach people online through digital advertising on Facebook, Instagram, Google display and search, audio streaming services such as Spotify, Alexa, and DAX
  • Direct marketing channels: Stay in touch resident email newsletter, SMS text messaging
  • Broadcast marketing channels: Local TV and radio advertising and editorials
  • Targeted place-based channels: digital screens in GP surgeries, print media advertising and advertorials, cinema screens, outdoor including Cornwall’s buses, bus stops and billboards.

As part of our strategy, we are working more closely with our services, our community link officers and the wider group of companies to improve our place-based communications and our ability to reach out to all of Cornwall’s communities, including those we need to work harder to reach, including:

  • Community Facebook groups, parish newsletters, Business Improvement District newsletters – to increase our reach into local communities when needed e.g., Covid updates and flood warnings and events or specific area pilots such as changes to waste collections, etc.
  • Tapping into service specific newsletters and social media accounts for specific user groups – we have a number of social media channels and newsletters developed and managed direct by our services, such as business regulation and housing services, which can help us to reach out specific audiences
  • Our local information hubs, mobile libraries to reach rural residents, adult education services and Together for Families, have brilliant direct networks with our residents and stakeholders.

Our comms team structure

News and content – ensuring residents feel well informed and driving resident engagement via media and social media, content generation including digital content, film, podcasts and videography. This includes a 24/7 emergency/crisis communications service in partnership with the Council’s emergency management team.

Internal communications drive our staff engagement by keeping our 5,000+ employees well informed about the work of the Council and how the work that they do supports the Council’s mission and business plan.

Marketing develops longer term campaigns which shift demand for services, encourage take up of services, increase digital marketing capability including the residents e-newsletter, manage advertising and brand.

Consultation and engagement - supports the organisation to be a “listening Council” by managing and delivering key corporate consultation and engagement exercises and by providing advice, guidance and support to services who want or need to engage or consult with residents and stakeholders. The team manages the Council’s digital consultation and engagement platform “Let’s Talk Cornwall.”

Design and print - produce all Cornwall Council design work to maintain a strong brand, from leaflets, annual reports, digital infographics to exhibition panels for resident roadshows and animations. They ensure our printed materials are accessible and available in a wide range of formats as appropriate. They support residents with interpretations and translations and support events with technical delivery. This team also identifies opportunities to commercialise our operations. They deliver print and mail services – apart from the obvious, this also includes delivery of the digitisation of operational services, such as hybrid mail and management of the local print infrastructure. They generate income for the communications and engagement service which effectively covers their costs and makes their services to the Council cost neutral.

Our story – where are we now?

Feedback from the last peer review recognised communications as an integral part of the success of the organisation. In feedback, the team was asked to ensure that the Council’s communications and marketing programme were targeted on the business plan/priorities for Cornwall and take every opportunity to explain and link delivery to the priority outcomes. In response we have:

  • Set out clear brand guidelines which include the Council’s business plan and priority outcomes, ensuring that all communications link back to the four key priorities of the Cabinet
  • Developed and delivered a weekly resident e-newsletter with above average industry open rate of 45%
  • Introduced the Let’s Talk Cornwall digital platform to increase engagement and two-way conversation for residents and stakeholders in Cornwall which has achieved 340k visits since its start date, with a better-than-industry-norm engagement rate of 30.5%
  • Grown the social media reach and introduced regular Facebook-live online events to engage, inform and reach our 80k+ digital audiences for a diverse range of topics which support our priorities, such as staying safe during the pandemic, information for residents on G7, devolution, household waste and recycling, and help with the cost of living
  • Created a consistent advertising, media operations and social media policy for all services to follow
  • Introduced new place-based channels of communication including use of bus stop RTI signs, digital matrix road signs and text message support or reminders to support behaviour change campaigns
  • Provided a consistent look and feel for arms-length companies branding including Corserv, Treveth, Cornwall Housing, Cornwall Highways, and Celtic Power.

Efficiency

  • During 2021/22 we implemented a new contract for statutory notices advertising, with a cost reduction for the Council of 35% on average
  • During 2021/22 the design team completed 672 jobs with an income of £371k
  • During 2021/22 the print team completed 3,700 jobs with an income of £471k.

Objectives for communications for the next period

  • Supporting the Cabinet and Council’s mission and priority outcomes – external and internal audiences understand our priorities and how we deliver them
  • Ensuring communication is seen as the responsibility of all – employees understand that we all have a responsibility to communicate well and have the tools to deliver it
  • Supporting the Council to be one organisation, with one voice – developing a clear and consistent brand and tone across the organisation
  • Being regarded as a listening council – developing two-way communications based on dialogue and listening
  • Future focused comms – ensuring our communications keep pace and adapt to changes in society, innovative technologies, and challenges.

Success measures for the next year

  • We will establish a community of best practice within the organisation so that all employees recognise that good communications are part of everyone’s role
  • We will build four communication plans aligned to the work of the Council’s four outcome delivery boards – and all communication is linked to the delivery of the priority outcomes
  • We will develop our brand through strong and well-enforced brand guidelines, so our residents know who we are, the wide range of services we deliver and the VFM we provide
  • We will introduce “tone of voice” to the Council’s brand guidelines to strengthen our brand and create a consistent tone of voice
  • We will audit the organisation’s social media channels and ensure that every channel has a clear audience and a clear purpose
  • We will introduce guides for services communicating with those residents with protected characteristics
  • We will continue to use evidence from the resident surveys to improve our communications and look to improve the percentage of residents who are satisfied that Cornwall Council keeps them well informed by providing accurate, timely and trusted information on all aspects of Council business and service delivery
  • We will develop horizon scanning for communications, so that our internal and external communications are well planned, and residents feel well informed
  • We will ensure that all the Council’s channels for communication work together and thereby increase the reach and amplification of their communications to residents
  • We will work with our Council partners to ensure the organisation is able to work quickly to tackle any misinformation to the public, through sharing of trusted content across all channels
  • We will monitor all channels and report any emerging issues that may cause concern to the public and escalate if appropriate
  • We will create a culture of continuous improvement in communications for the organisation by sharing best practice, understanding the latest communications tools and techniques, and providing strategic communications advice where appropriate
  • We will continue to develop communications tailored to specific audiences and improve our networks to “level-up” access to communications for all residents.

Giving children and young people a voice in Cornwall

Cornwall Council is committed to championing Article 12 of the Rights of the Child.

Article 12 (respect for the views of the child) Every child has the right to express their views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously.

We need to create content about council policies and wider information about Cornwall Council to give children and young people access to the information they need to be informed which will both allow and enable the improvement of Children’s Participation.

As we create content and allow for two-way conversation with children and young people, we can start to develop a council that better serves their needs and allows Cornwall to be seen as a desirable place to return to filled with opportunity and aspiration for postgraduates.

In the next year we will work with the young people who have set up the Youth Council communications team to develop a programme of communications which will allow for better 2-way communication with Children and Young people, so we can:

  • Learn where we go wrong as a council for children and young people and fix it
  • Inspire and empower children and young people about their prospects in Cornwall
  • Influence other councils to do the same.

Review process

This document to be reviewed annually by the Head of Communications and Engagement.

Cornwall Council Communications and Engagement Strategy
Produced: November 2023

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