The Government Communications Australia Conference took place from 26-28 February in Melbourne. It was mostly made up of Local Government communications professionals, with a few Federal Government reps thrown in. Like any conference of its type, the main benefit in attending was the ability to talk to others about how they approach communications and then to take these ideas home.

The conference itself was a well oiled machine with a broad range of topics covered under the theme of Hot Topics, Cool Ideas, Adaptive Solutions. Including presentations from some of the sponsors, the overall program was beneficial and covered a lot of area.

Being the only Tasmanian Council represented (other than former Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett) was a bit of an honour, in that I am now tasked with getting other Tasmanian Councils on board. We certainly have a lot to learn from our bigger counterparts and fortunately digital technology has opened the door of possibility.

Here are 10 takeaways  from the GovComms 2014 Conference.

1) Advocacy over engagement

A number of Councils are into “advocacy” over engagement, which I think is an interesting approach. Leading a community campaign not only helps Councils lift their profile, but also enables them to be champions for their communities. The immersive site visit to the City of Yarra to look at their Trains not Toll Roads was an eye opener for me.

2) It’s all happening in Frankston

I’ve been watching Frankston City Council for a while now and think they are doing a lot of great things in regards to both external and internal engagement.

3) Engaging an organisation

The Boroondara Council gave a fantastic presentation on the challenges of engaging an organisation. Hopefully the Govcomms team will be releasing some of the background to this project soon.

4) Rebuilding communities

The team from Strategy (NZ) gave a great presentation on the work done following the earthquake in Christchurch. While there was certainly some urgency in regards to rebuilding, this was a great example of taking a creative and strategic approach to rebuilding communities.

5) Safety in Numbers

The Safety In Numbers campaign by the Isaac Regional Council took out the Best Marketing/Public Relations Campaign to a Shire/Regional Council for good reason. This was a very creative response to addressing a problem. Too often I see approaches look at the problem, than the solution – here is a great example.

6) Logan: City of Choice

If only I had the resources of Logan City Council, but seriously in terms of takeaway, a lot of great ideas are coming out of the far North, maybe it’s time for a holiday. Take a look at what they did with City of Choice.

7) Storytelling

There was a great presentation from Shawn Callahan on storytelling. I have a reminder on my wall that says: “The future is in storytelling; written, visual, audio. Tell a story and tell it well.” Check his work out at

8) Thought leadership

The next insight for me was a presentation on Thought Leadership. It’s a new term I’d heard tossed around a bit and hadn’t really had it explained to me well – take a look at the work of Geoffrey Stackhouse from Clarity Solutions.

9) Engaging the disengaged

The presentation from Policy Booth gave some great ideas on how to engage the disengaged, we need to start reaching out to everyone other than the standard “set”.

10) Soundwave

Lastly the conference happened to coincide with the Soundwave festival, which meant a group of us ended up having very interesting discussions with some awesome musicians! For those who want to Google it, I had a very interesting discussion about the state of US politics with one of the guys from Gwar. Now that’s communications/engagement!

GCA Awards

The other significant part of the conference was the GCA Awards, which cover a broad range of areas (as detailed in the following media release). It is great to receive recognition, not only for the hard work that communications practitioners do, but also to help establish a guide to some “best practice” in the industry. I would highly recommend attending next year’s conference, so keep an eye on the GovComms websiteFacebook page and Twitter. I and a number of others also tweeted from the conference, which is available for now at #gcamelb14.


About the author: Corey Speers

 Corey Speers
Corey Speers

Corey Speers is Communications Officer for Waratah-Wynyard and Circular Head Councils in Tasmania and a committee member of Government Communications Australia.

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