PR conference directing power and change

In welcoming just over 100 delegates to the National Local Government Public Relations and Communications Conference, held in Melbourne on 19 and 20 February, then President of the Local Government Public Relations Association, Chris Marks, said that the profit of just over $6,000 from this conference would all be donated to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal.

He said that councils’ public relations and communications staff spend around half their time trying to attract attention to stories and the other half keeping it away.

As such he said keynote speaker, Stephen Mayne, Walkley Award winning business journalist, founder of, shareholder activist and now Councillor at the City of Manningham, would set the scene for a very informative and enriching two day event.

Stephen Mayne was elected to Council last November and said he is thoroughly enjoying the 40 hours per week he is now spending in what he describes as
‘the toy parliament’.

He initially recognised some trepidation from management and fellow Councillors but has assured colleagues he is happy to step back into the spindoctor role to help provide good publicity for Manningham.

Stephen Mayne told delegates that councils can be easily side tracked into spending too much time on what he describes as squeaky wheels, that is a few troublesome constituents.

He said they are simply not worth the trouble.

“Similarly focus on the majority decisions of council, not squeaky voices from inside your council,” he added.

“Pick your major issues and go hard on these by working constructively with your local media. Be open and honest with them. Increase information on your web site – get it out there.”

He said the key is a strong CEO and a well resourced PR department with the one message.

“Succeed on substance and not spin,” he said. “Avoid the cheap short headlines that can damage your council in the long term.”

He advocates using the ‘7.30 test’, that is how would this stand up to scrutiny by Kerry O’Brien.

Des Penny, CEO of the Proteus Leadership Centre, addressed the conference on the theme ‘Moving from Mediocrity to Magic’.

He said that too often we are driven by what occurs rather than understanding what our purpose is.

“We are able to set the scene,” he said. “This is an amazing time at present. Is it just a fight for survival or an opportunity to reinvent ourselves. Sometimes we give up too soon.

“By stepping into the unknown, people often ask themselves, what if I fail? The answer to this is, well I will just do something different.”

He urged delegates to be prepared to take the first steps – if you trip and fall at least you have had a go.

“We need to build on and expand our core values,” Des Penny said. “We cannot come out the other end looking the same. The key is to reinvent not to simply reshuffle.”

During the conference, Peter Fitz from Moreland City Council was elected President of LGPRA for the next 12 months.