Local Government Magazine
Local Government 101

A bit of a festive stretch

Why council communications are like undergarments.

by ELIZABETH HUGHES – Elizabeth Hughes Communication.

Remember when our mothers told us not to leave the house without clean underwear, “in case you get run over by a bus”? This advice was less about the horror of being injured or maimed, and way more about being prepared. When the same sentiment is applied to local government communication, we call this risk management. With a bit of stretch, and in the spirit of the festive season, this prompted me to think about other ways that communication can be compared to undergarments.

Communication should be the first thing you put on – not the last.

Too often, a project or activity is activated and then, as an afterthought, the communication adviser is brought in. This is usually too late because you’re all fully dressed and out the door.

One size does not fit all – no matter what the label says.

Every single size and shape of council activity needs to have communication that is a good fit. Do not try and apply the same communication to every single output – this will just result in gaps or overflows.

While there is sometimes a need for special occasion communication, more often than not, the simple more industrial type will see you through.

Get the basics right and only bring out the flash stuff for those times when you really need to make an outstanding impression.

Expensive does not always equate to effective.

Sometimes less is more.

Although communication takes pretty much the same basic shape and form, there are endless ways you can style it.

Y-fronts, long leg, briefs, shorts, lycra sports, even satin boxers covered in elves… They’re all undergarments but each sends a different signal. Always bear in mind the signals your communication is sending.

Communication should be kept fresh and clean.

Grey, over-washed and loose with hanging threads is never a good look.

There’s always context.

Undies, undies, togs, togs… Remember to look at the bigger picture before embarking on your communication activity. Sometimes the wrong tools will lead to confusion and misunderstanding.

Always have a fall-back option.

You never know when your tried and trusted is going to be split or broken. Prepare for the unexpected and have your crisis management plan at the ready.

Some would say that communication is not really a necessity.

Hanging loose and just going with the flow can have unintended consequences.

’Tis the season to be jolly. If you’re lucky, Santa may even bring you
some new undies.

Communication is not just there to cover up things you’d rather keep out of the public gaze.

Good communication supports and upholds the principles of transparency and openness. Don’t use it to find places to hide. (And really good communication will highlight your positives – while still keeping your privates well contained.)

A flash of colour or sparkle will invite closer inspection.

Great communication can make even the dull seem interesting. Without good communication, local government would be more boring (less relevant) than it already is to most people. Be bold and proud.

It’s a fine line between over-inflating and dressing up – tread carefully.

If everything else has failed – fancy lingerie might fix it in the short term but, sooner or later, someone is going to see what really lies beneath. Be sure that what is eventually uncovered is real.

Communication is a key strategic support function.

Like all good foundation garments, it should be invisible to the naked eye.


This article was first published in the December 2018 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.

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