'Elevate the importance of comms' – CIPR LPS Chair urges public sector bodies

Last week on BBC Newsnight, the Deputy Leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, Kim Taylor-Smith faced questions about the organisation’s response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Answering criticism over a lack of information available to residents, Smith said “We only have two people in our comms department and we had 5,000 calls in one day”.

In a statement published today, Chartered Institute of Public Relations Local Public Services Group Chair, Amanda Pearse MCIPR urged public bodies to elevate the importance professional communications.

Amanda Pearse MCIPR
The ongoing debate over the Kensington and Chelsea Council communications response to Grenfell Tower raises a number of questions. It highlights the need for public sector bodies to take seriously the day to day communications and engagement with publics as well as providing crisis resilience.

Where organisations have built trust and have robust channels of communication with their publics they are much better equipped to deal with a crisis. People have confidence in the information they are given and know where to go to get that information.

Where organisations have elected representatives they need to ensure that those people are equipped and supported to communicate effectively whether that is preparing them for media interviews, managing debates or helping them engage with their constituents.

Building and managing an organisation’s reputation is not delivered by a few high profile campaigns alone. PR needs a strategic, systematic approach to engaging citizens and service users which is bought into by the whole organisation.

A communicating council requires clear leadership from the top. It needs corporate management to involve senior communicators in decisions and listen to the professional advice given. It also needs PR professionals who have the confidence, training and experience to challenge culture, raise ethical issues, take the long view and argue for the resources to do the job properly.

We should all reflect on how our organisation communicates and how it would respond to a similar challenge. We should also ask ourselves as public sector PR professionals about resilience; both personal and team.

This is where the CIPR, as a professional institute, and the Local Public Services Group come into their own. Having access to high quality training and CPD and a network of peers who can give advice and provide support is often underestimated but when times get tough it is invaluable.
Amanda Pearse MCIPR
Notes to editors

Notes to editors

About the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR)Founded in 1948, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) is the Royal Chartered professional body for public relations practitioners in the UK and overseas. The CIPR is the largest membership organisation for PR practitioners outside of North America. By size of turnover and number of individually registered members, we are the leading representative body for the PR profession and industry in Europe.

The CIPR advances professionalism in public relations by making its members accountable to their employers and the public through a code of conduct and searchable public register, setting standards through training, qualifications, awards and the production of best practice and skills guidance, facilitating Continuing Professional Development (CPD), and awarding Chartered Public Relations Practitioner status (Chart.PR).