A Week In My Life: Ginette Unsworth, interim Head of Communications for Lancashire County Council

David Prior's picture
by David Prior

This week Ginette Unsworth, interim Head of Communications for Lancashire County Council, runs us through a week in her working life. To suggest another senior media or creative figure to feature in A Week In My Life, please email david@prolificnorth.co.uk

Monday 21 November

This is my second week into a new role as Head of Communications for Lancashire County Council so I am still in the 'settling in' period. I am not new to the organisation, however, but managing the entire service and operating at a higher level is something I am now embracing. I now have my own office but think it is still important to be in touch with the team so spend my first hour of the week 'hot-desking' in the team open plan area to help find out the issues of the day.

We have a weekly managers' Monday morning catch up to get a sense of what is going on this week, and how we can be more collaborative across the team when it comes to media, stakeholder updates and online presence. It is going to be a busy week.

I attend a councillor briefing at lunch time to help update on a new economic development site which could be home to the first IKEA in Lancashire along with a number of other employment uses. We are about to go out to public consultation before the planning application is submitted and this was big news on regional TV and local broadcast and print media last Friday, when we made the announcement of the potential to create almost 5,000 new jobs.

My afternoon is spent off site on an emergency planning exercise and it starts to feel real about what pandemic flu could look like. Communications has a key role to play in emergencies like this but considering plans alongside the likelihood of a smaller workforce due to the illness spreading, is very useful to plan for.

Tuesday 22 November

Today we are interviewing for a new Director of Children's Services and part of their robust assessment is to carry out a media interview with them. Our scenario is quite challenging based around the death of a young child and we put the candidates through their paces with a video camera and some harsh journalism – rather them than me!

The beauty of this job is that it is so varied and the topics we cover are vast. My afternoon involves lots of meetings including discussions around social care and improving processes and how we communicate them, to thinking creativity of how we can launch a campaign to reduce the number of children who have weight problems at an early age. I love the creativity we have within the team and I am proud that many of our campaign efforts have been nominated for national awards over the last few years.

Wednesday 23 November

My new role means I report to the chief executive and have a place around the table at the management team. There is no better to way to find out strategically what is going on in the organisation and help shape the communications messages required both internally and externally. With around 13,500 employees on numerous sites, internal communications is an important part of the team's role.

Working in a political organisation it is essential for me to know some of the decisions that our cabinet will be considering and my afternoon involves a pre-agenda meeting to plan the next decision making sessions. My day ends with an update on fracking which has been a hot topic in Lancashire for months following our councillors refusing the original applications which have subsequently been overruled by government. I think anyone who didn’t quite have Lancashire on their radar previously, has a much better knowledge of the area since the fracking debate.

Thursday 24 November

The diary is a little lighter today which gives me time to have some one-to- one meetings with my team in a bid to uncover what we can do differently to sharpen up our communications. Everyone has ideas and I want to ensure that each team member has the opportunity to share theirs and have a time for reflection especially when we are always working to such tight deadlines.

I have a really useful discussion on branding of some of our services and the challenge of presenting a different 'offer' without totally confusing the customer. Meanwhile one of my team is busy briefing the council leader to carry out a series of further regional TV interviews about job growth and the exciting potential of IKEA. Meatballs and tea lights are a constant thread through the social media conversations.

Tonight is a very special night as I am the compere for the council's annual staff recognition awards. The event is held in a beautiful museum building and I am privileged to spend two hours telling the stories of some fantastic people across Lancashire and the amazing work they have done. A truly humbling experience and a definite vow that I am never going to moan again about my woes given the difficulties some people have to put up with (until my teenagers drive me to breaking point again!).

Friday 25 November

How time flies and it is the end of the week again. I have an interesting partner meeting in the morning around the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal, which is injecting £434m into the area to boost growth. Projects like this are longer term but it is exciting when infrastructure comes to fruition, houses start to be built and jobs are created. I feel very much part of helping to change the face of Lancashire for decades to come.

My afternoon involves tying up some loose ends and focusing on the weather for next week and working with the team on our winter messages. We had some really bad flooding in Lancashire last year so fingers crossed the weather stays drier this year and into next.

So the weekend begins and it is action packed as usual spending time with my husband and two children, meeting some university friends and decorating my son's bedroom. All in a week's work!

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