Providing clear and timely information to our colleagues and communities is important at the best of times. But in a crisis situation, it’s more crucial than ever.

Since the initial weeks when the UK’s COVID-19 position was beginning to unfold and gather pace, the work of the Communications and Marketing team has been at the heart of DCC’s response.

From making sure our own colleagues have the information they need to do their jobs and support city residents, to managing updates for the public and media, it’s been all hands on deck in these fast-paced times.

As part of our #HereForDerby campaign we talk to Mandy Atkinson, a Communications Officer who has been diverted from project work to help support the central team effort.

“The Council’s role in responding to this crisis is so vast and varied, the sheer volume of information that needs to be understood and shared is huge,” said Mandy, who usually works on projects led by Change Derby.

“We have processes in place for when we need to communicate in an emergency, but like teams across the Council we were thrown into an unknown situation which was changing by the day – especially in the early weeks – and having to make sense of a lot of information, for lots of different people.”

The team manages a range of communication channels that keep colleagues, residents and partners up to date – including DCC’s Newsroom, a range of busy social media accounts, Keeping in Touch, regular all-colleague update emails, and the COVID-19 update sections of iDerby and derby.gov.uk

They also facilitate the Managers’ Conference which was held virtually for the first time in April, using Skype for Business. It saw a record 250 colleagues attend, taking the online meeting to its capacity – with great feedback from those who took part.

“Working with senior colleagues, the team has to achieve a balancing act to keep people updated while not overwhelmed, and also trying to make people feel reassured as far as possible in these difficult times,” said Mandy.

“The fast-track of the Digital Workforce project has been hugely helpful (thanks to IT colleagues!) by giving us new technology to keep in touch with each other and feel less isolated. But even that comes with its communications challenges as we all need to understand how it works in practice!”

But it’s at times of pressure and pace that her colleagues come into their own, and the Team Derby spirit has really shone through, said Mandy.

“Working in this team is always busy, it’s a fast-paced role which requires people to juggle multiple balls at once and work quickly and decisively – often in sensitive situations.

“Those skills have been more valuable than ever over recent months, and the team effort has been brilliant. Different parts of the team have been working together in new ways, and individual colleagues have excelled.

“Some have stepped up to a new role, while others have thrown themselves into new projects or skills, for example. And everyone has done it with a smile, a positive outlook and a great sense of humour that’s kept us all going!

“Although some days can be tough, our roles put us in quite a unique position in the organisation and is especially rewarding at times like these.

“You’re involved in so many aspects of a situation – both internally and externally. Our team contributes to everything from strategic decision-making with senior colleagues, through to the day-to-day operational work that brings our organisation to life, like facilitating media coverage about the amazing work we’re doing out in the city.

“As colleagues who support every service, we see and understand things across these services, and as a whole. It’s about considering many different points of view – and their potential impact – to help make overall sense of the bigger picture, and the Council’s part in that.

“We also help to lead and create positivity in difficult times. Our new #HereForDerby campaign is a perfect example of this.

“We’ve been carrying out interviews with colleagues recently and it’s a real privilege to be able to listen to and help bring these stories to life – it’s great to be able to help share and celebrate our collective good work, and has definitely brought us all a smile.

“As the Council and city moves towards recovery, effective communications will remain at the very heart of this – so it’s not going to quieten down any time soon!”