Australia’s peak body for public sector communications and marketing professionals and specialists, Government Communications Australia (GCA), has announced the winners of its prestigious awards for excellence and innovation at the conclusion of its 2015 conference in Sydney.
Now in its sixth year, the annual fixture has grown rapidly in size and calibre with recognition and its awards remain among the nation’s most sought after professional prizes in one of the most challenging parts of the public sector.
This year’s top honours were went to Mildura Regional Council for the local government’s collaboration on the Triple J One Night Stand event that brought six prominent Australian rock and pop acts — including Illy, Dan Sultan and Violent Soho — to the town in May 2014 for a drug and alcohol free event on the banks of the Murray River that attracted 20,000 people.
For local governments wrestling with young people who leave their region to pursue bigger opportunities, Triple J’s One Night Stand events have become a valuable showcase for not only restoring civic pride but act as a major catalyst for creating lasting benefits from events tourism with TV broadcasts beamed out nationally on ABC2.
According to GCA, the announcement of the event came “amidst growing negative public sentiment towards Mildura Rural City Council and its ability to stage and attract major events to the region.”
“As host partner of the event, Council and the entire Mildura region was in a prime position to leverage huge economic, social and public relations windfalls. With just three months to prepare and so much at stake, it was clear from the outset that a coordinated and strategic communications approach was crucial.”
[For a full list of winners and pictures scroll to the end of this story]
However the winning event was far from the only standout communications project.
Darwin City collected the prize for the Best Communications/Engagement for the way it consulted on and ultimately put together the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Cyclone Tracy which destroyed the Northern Territory capital.
“Tangible, physical expressions of memorialisation, opportunities to explore the emotional dimensions through displays as well as story sharing and social interaction helped address the often unspoken psychological impacts that remained with families and individuals following the trauma,” GCA noted.
Deb Ganderton, President of Government Communications Australia, noted that the GCA Awards are still the only awards that exclusively recognise communications in government.
“It was great to see such a high number of entries of an exceptionally high calibre this year from small rural through to large city councils and state government departments,” Ms Ganderton said.
“More than ever, we are called to account by our stakeholders for better communications and there’s an emphasis on doing the best with what we have, and sometimes what we have is only a few resources that need to be effectively utilised to affect big changes”.
However the awards are far from the only resource available to member organisations from what is has become a multi-skilled and highly dynamic sector.
With state and federal funding for councils and projects leaner than ever, local and state government organisations are increasingly turning to their communications teams to run campaigns on local issues or press the case for making necessary reforms to drive dollars further.
Among those addressing the GCA 2015 conference was Andres Puig, Director at The Civic Group Council, who told delegates that having a good policy or worthwhile project is no longer enough to secure necessary funding. Rather, advocacy is the solution, but to advocate effectively government organisations often had to run a campaign.
Another hot topic included the use of content marketing as a strategic business process. David Pembroke, Founder and CEO of Contentgroup, told delegates this involved the creation, curation and distribution of useful, relevant and consistent content in order to achieve a desired citizen or stakeholder action.
Government Communications Australia Award Winners 2015
Best Communications/Engagement – City Council
Winner: Darwin City – 40th anniversary of Cyclone Tracy
Following extensive consultation with the community, it became clear that a multi-faceted approach to the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Cyclone Tracy was needed.
Tangible, physical expressions of memorialisation, opportunities to explore the emotional dimensions through displays as well as story sharing and social interaction helped address the often unspoken psychological impacts that remain with families and individuals following the trauma.
Through collaboration with community stakeholders, Cyclone Tracy survivors, non- government organisations, peak bodies and the Northern Territory Government, a wide ranging program of events, activities and engagement opportunities was developed and coordinated by the City of Darwin.
An unprecedented level of participation resulted, whereby all members of the community had the opportunity to learn about, explore and experience the ways Cyclone Tracy affected both individuals and the community as a whole. The program afforded new perspectives on the impact the event had on the development of modern-day, resilient Darwin in the face of the ongoing threat of cyclones in our city.
Unprecedented national media coverage provided an opportunity to reflect on the impact of the disaster, and the contribution such a disaster had on our national psyche.
Best Communications/ Engagement – Shire or Rural Council
Winner: Isaac Regional Council – How we outfoxed the batsWhat do you do when tens of thousands of little red flying foxes move into your backyard trees and inundate your neighbourhood? As a Council how do you prepare residents, build awareness and change behaviour towards flying foxes and their migrations? And when they move in, how does Council get individuals and whole communities cooperating? Working together to safely, legally and quickly relocate 80,000 little red flying foxes in two regional towns, at the same time?
Following a major exercise to disperse a colony of 30,000 flying foxes roosting in Moranbah in January 2014, Isaac Regional Council’s (IRC) Brand, Media and Communication (BMC) team took away key learnings about getting the community on board and discouraging self-dispersals.
Best Marketing/ Public Relations Campaign – City Council
Winner: Randwick Coogee Beach Library
Kindles and e-readers are so difficult to read at the beach! This was a passing comment by a local resident in early 2014 that got us thinking. Modern ebooks are great, but hard to read in the sunshine. They’re also expensive and don’t mix well with sand. And yet people still want to curl up with a good book on a beach over summer. This was the inspiration for Randwick City Council to launch Australia’s first beach library. A library where swimwear is the norm, books and magazines are borrowed under an honour system and the library is open 7 days a week at one of Sydney’s busiest beaches. With more than a million visits to Coogee Beach each summer, the Coogee Beach Library makes accessing a library easy and helps shake off the stigma of the cardigan-wearing, noise-shooshing librarian. The Beach Library was launched on 1 December 2014 to operate throughout the summer of 2014-15. It resonated strongly with locals and visitors generating hundreds of organic social media posts. The Beach Library typifies the cha
nging face of libraries and the increasing focus on communities and being a place for people to meet, socialise, learn and interact. Joshua Hay
Best Marketing/ Public Relations Campaign – Shire/ Rural Council
Winner: Clarence City Council – Library Branding
What do you do when tens of thousands of little red flying foxes move into your backyard trees and inundate your neighbourhood?
As a Council how do you prepare residents, build awareness and change behaviour towards flying foxes and their migrations?
And when they move in, how does Council get individuals and whole communities cooperating?
Isaac Regional Council worked with the community to safely, legally and quickly relocate 80,000 little red flying foxes in two regional towns, at the same time?
Best Communications Campaign on a Shoe-string
Winner: City of Boroondara – Boroondara Gotta Go
A failure to attract enough lollipop people (school crossing supervisors) to ensure the road safety of young children and their families was a ticking PR time-bomb for Boroondara.
Not only was this a safety issue, there were huge cost implications for Council and the community. Employing on-demand agency staff was expensive. Using parking officers to fill the gap impacted the provision of quality parking management and saw an even greater cost impact through lost parking fine revenue.
Unable to solve the problem for many years through traditional recruitment and communication methods Local Laws, Human Resources and Communications forged a powerful partnership. Together we developed a brave and innovative PR and Marketing campaign that carefully turned potential negative PR into positive PR for Council.
The ‘Gotta Go’ campaign was founded on collaboratively solving the problem with the community. We generated a sense of ownership by the community and strong awareness of the issue through exceptional media coverage. We trailed new communication methods, targeted and engaged new markets and influenced positive perceptions. Ultimately we exceeded all expectations including the number of enquiries, applications and recruits for the role.
Enquiries rose by more than 400 per cent. More than 25 new recruits have already been hired with 20 more awaiting interviews. In the two years before the campaign council only managed to recruit a total of six. Savings are estimated at approximately $14,000 per recruit per year. Using agency staff cost an extra $4,000 a year per supervisor and using our parking officers lost Council an average of $306 revenue per hour per officer. The campaign was more cost effective than traditional recruitment methods.
Numerous Victorian Councils have benefited from the campaign and many more are continuing to reap the benefits by utilising the resources we developed.
Best Advocacy/ Public Affairs
Winner: Wyndham City Council – Get Wyndham Moving
Wyndham is the fastest growing municipality in Victoria however road and public transport infrastructure has not kept pace with population and housing growth. When Council asked residents what their top four priorities were, transport / congestion alleviation emerged as the top priority.
In December 2013, Wyndham City adopted a 2-year campaign ‘Get Wyndham Moving’ to tackle traffic and transport congestion in Wyndham. Although there were two distinct phases of the campaign, in the first year ¬ 2014, the campaign focus was on engaging community support and advocating to Government for more transport funding.
Through the implementation of an effective campaign that included advertising, events, publicity, collateral and a digital presence ‘Get Wyndham Moving’ was thrust in front of millions of eyeballs. Wyndham City also recruited 12 local transport champions representing diverse parts of the community to be the face of the campaign.34 per cent of Wyndham residents spontaneously recognised the advocacy campaign, the Get Wyndham Moving petition achieved 5,535 signatories and there were 43,122 views on the website between March and December 2014.
In the lead up to the Victorian State election (November 2014) the campaign advocated for 7 ‘asks’ to reduce traffic congestion and post-election, 6 of 7 are being delivered.
Best Social Marketing Campaign
Winner: Department of Education and Training Victoria – Education Campaign Preparing today’s students for tomorrow
Education has the transformative power to change lives.
We know that children do the best at school when their parents are involved in their education. We also know that parents worry about their child’s future.
With the world changing so rapidly we need to leverage the benefits of a globalised economy so as to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s world.
That’s why we developed an integrated awareness campaign aimed at increasing parents’ confidence in and knowledge of today’s approach to schooling; and helping parents understand what they can do at home to support their child’s learning.
The campaign ran for six weeks and featured a strong anchor line ‘Preparing today’s students for tomorrow’ that under pinned everything that we did, including our school communications, advertising, media, digital assets and stakeholder engagement.
The campaign far exceeded all of its KPIs and was highly successful in reaching and engaging with the target audience. It also positively influenced attitudes and behaviour with more than half the parents reached by the campaign taking some form of action.
These results position the campaign as one of the most successful campaigns to be undertaken by the Department.
Best Inclusive Communications
Winner: City of Canada Bay – Rhodes – a new community and a new approach to communications and engagement
The Rhodes Peninsula is the fastest-growing region in the City of Canada Bay and in NSW.
Its demographic is vastly different from the rest of the City of Canada Bay, and we recognised the need for a different approach to the management and development of the region, in terms of the physical, as well as social infrastructure.
As a result, our approach to engagement and communication has been developed to meet the changing demographic.
Traditional communication and engagement was not necessarily effective in achieving results. This community is upwardly mobile, internet-savvy and keen to play a role in developing their new neighbourhood.
Overall, we needed to ensure initiatives, resources, engagement and communication remained relevant and responsive to the changing environment and changing community..
National Award Winner
Best Tourism and Events Communication
Winner: Mildura City Council – Triple J One Night Stand
In February 2014 the ABC selected Mildura as the venue for the 2014 triple j One Night Stand. Up to 20,000 people were expected to attend the free all-ages concert on the banks of the Murray River.
The announcement came amidst growing negative public sentiment towards Mildura Rural City Council and its ability to stage and attract major events to the region. As host partner of the event, Council and the entire Mildura region was in a prime position to leverage huge economic, social and public relations windfalls. With just three months to prepare and so much at stake, it was clear from the outset that a coordinated and strategic communications approach was crucial.
Mildura Rural City Council established a communications project group and worked with key local industry bodies to streamline messaging, consolidate resources and package communications for a diverse range of audience segments with complex communications needs.
The result was substantial economic, social and! public relations outcomes for Mildura Rural City Council and the Mildura region.
Internal Communications/ Engagement
Yarra City Council – Internal Communications at Yarra
Yarra City Council has over 1220 staff spread across dozens of work sites making internal communications a major (but not insurmountable) challenge ¬ and necessity!
Prior to 2014 Yarra’s communications focus was solely external (media, publications, issues management, advocacy and digital). In 2013/14 Yarra City Council embarked on the development and implementation of the ONE Yarra Strategy for organisational cultural change. This set the clear objective to establish and improve excellence in Internal Communications.
Yarra set out to:
• develop and resource an Internal Communications Strategy and Action Plan for Yarra;
• respond faster, more accurately and with confidence in interactions with internal and external community;
• develop internal communication service standards at Yarra;
• Create and improve staff connection, engagement and internal awareness of key issues or direction
As part of the One Yarra journey, Yarra’s Communications Branch undertook extensive benchmarking and analysis, and consultation and engagement with staff across the organisation.
From here it developed Yarra’s first Internal Communications Strategy and Action Plan ¬ the vision of which was to strengthen our internal communication so as to ensure our workforce is supported, connected, capable and equipped to contribute to a positive and productive organisation.
Best Digital Media
Winner: City of Greater Dandenong
In April 2014, the City of Greater Dandenong unveiled a new civic centre, library, civic square and urban screen. A centrepiece for the space, the screen (called ‘the Big Screen’) was a key element, as it provided a unique and innovative way to showcase the local community, increase community participation and engagement, as well as provide a free outlet for education and entertainment.
Globally, there is a growing trend toward the installation of large screens in public places. This represents a shift from the traditional advertising-only model, focusing instead on creating welcoming, accessible public places and innovative community engagement.
The Big Screen has done this and more, providing the local community a physical space where they can meet, socialise and learn.
With a community as diverse as Greater Dandenong’s, this is vital, and the Big Screen breaks down barriers by supporting visual content, rather than traditional communications methods that rely on individuals being fluent in English.
Similarly, it has given young people a space to present their views to the wider community, as well as explore creative mediums such as short film.
The screen supports a wide range of community events, consultations and campaigns, as well the physical space around it – the Dandenong Library, Council offices, Civic Space and local businesses that rely on Dandenong being a thriving hub.
Most importantly, it represents the local community – their achievements, needs and creativity – through its engaging content.
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