29 Jun 2021 | Online
10:00 - 16:00

Choose from 2 tracks of content

Agenda: Download PDF

Event prices

Private Sector

£395 +VAT £345* +VAT

Public Sector

£195 +VAT £145* +VAT

*If registering more than 1 place


Forging a new path for public sector communications

After a year of highs and lows, challenges, and opportunities – public sector communications leaders face a pivotal moment to regenerate, renew and re-strategise the future of their team, function, and purpose.

  • What do we want to keep from the past 12 months?
  • What do we leave behind from our previous working practices and approaches?
  • What new strategies better reflect the world we now live in? 

The 4th edition of the annual public sector communications conference will bring together 100+ communication leaders to reflect and learn from the opportunities and challenges presented by the pandemic.

This event will serve as a platform to establish best practices to strengthen communication strategies across the entire UK public sector.  Thought leaders will offer fresh insights to promote staff wellbeing and increase engagement, improve tone and messaging to maximise campaign impact, execute communication strategies easily adaptable to change, and increase team spirits and productivity when working from home.

Why Attend

Join us this June and walk away with new ideas to:

  • Redesign your communication strategy that is fit for purpose in the context of now
  • Fortify teams, develop, and empower staff to deliver on the opportunities ahead
  • Bridge communication gaps to reach all citizens and staff
  • Effectively deploy digital capabilities and enable hybrid ways of working
  • Remain proactive, stay ahead of the crisis, and deliver campaigns with impact

Confirmed Speakers Include:

  • Sharon Sawers, Director of Communications, Cabinet Office
  • Claire Riley, Executive Director of communications and corporate affairs, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
  • Laurian Hubbard, Head of Engagement, Welsh Parliament; Founder & Co-President, Women in PR Cymru
  • Claire Whitelaw, Head of Communications and Engagement, Durham University
  • Andrea Newman, Director of Communications & Engagement, Surrey County Council
  • Smyth Harper, Head of Communications, Lancashire County Council
  • Niamh Byrne, Head of Communications and Engagement, Avon & Somerset Police & Crime Commissioner
  • Mark Flannagan, Director of Marketing and Communications, Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust Eaton Road
  • Marysia (Morkis) Waters, Head of Communications and Engagement, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service



Opening Address by Event Chair: Jo Moffatt, Managing Director, Woodreed 


Keynote: Establishing the future of public sector communications

The pandemic has changed the way in which people communicate both at work and in their personal life. It has forced the exploration of new and faster methods of communication, in particular digital technology. It has also highlighted our need for face to face interactions. This session aims to evaluate communication in the UK public sector. Has the pandemic revolutionised communication? Areas of discussion include:

  • How has communication changed?
  • How has the reduction in face to face interaction impacted the efficacy of communication?
  • What key takeaways should the UK public sector take from the pandemic?
  • What should we expect to see in the future?



Panel discussion: From advisor to influencer - Getting your voice heard at the top

Communication enables the organisation to achieve operational excellence, eliminate silos, reduces errors and keep the employee’s informed to permit the business to meet its objective. With communications such a pivotal aspect of the organisation, it raises the question, should communication executives have a seat on the board.

  • How to re-position communication as a board room function
  • What is standing in the way of achieving this goal?
  • How to best prepare employees for this new route in their careers
  • How to maintain a seat on the senior management team

Sharon Sawers, Director of Communications, Cabinet Office

Laurian Hubbard, Head of Engagement, Welsh Parliament; Founder & Co-President, Women in PR Cymru

Paul Bates, Director of strategy and communication, Lambeth Council





Track A: Internal communication

Case study: Improving staff engagement and trust with social media

Connecting and engaging with staff has been a huge challenge for many communications leaders. This session will discuss how Northumbria trust foundation utilised a staff Facebook group to inform, engage and support staff throughout the crisis.

  • Leverage Facebook capabilities to boost morale and engage with staff
  • Learn how to increase staff involvement
  • Scheduling Facebook lives to address questions in real time

Claire Riley, Executive Director of communications and corporate affairs, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Track B: External communication
Case study: Creativity in communication - the “BEHEARD exhibitions campaign”
The BEHEARD campaign utilised art to connect and engage with abuse victims across Avon and Somerset. It increased officer and staff awareness of victim experiences and highlight what can be offered to support victims. This presentation will cover:
  • Explore the value of creativity in your communication materials
  • How to think outside the box in communication
  • Measuring the impact of the campaign

Niamh Byrne, Head of Communications and Engagement, Avon & Somerset Police & Crime Commissioner


Track A: Internal communication

Leading and strengthening your team in times of uncertainty

  • How to rebuild trust and team spirit to increase productivity
  • How to successfully onboard new employees
  • How to eliminate email overload to avoid staff burning out

Marysia Waters, Head of Communications and Engagement, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service

Track B: External communication

Engaging with HARD TO REACH audiences - Maximising citizen voice

In this unprecedented time, it has never been more important for local authorities to communicate effectively with different residents. One of the best ways Surrey discovered was through working with community champions, faith leaders and social media influencers. This approached allowed for important communication to reach all residents in the way and language most understood by the audience. This discussion will offer new insights on:

  • How to successfully work with community champions, influencers, and faith leaders to inform and understand residents' needs
  • How to build strong and lasting relationships to promote wellbeing and health across the count
  • How to develop and expand communication network

Andrea Newman, Director of Communications & Engagement, Surrey County Council

Catherine Jevans, Community Engagement Manager, Surrey County Council




Track A
Panel discussion: Balancing national and local approaches in the communication mix 
Communicating at a national level will differ from the local level. One of the reasons is that each region has different communication needs. Therefore a “one size fits all” approach will not work. This understanding questions the balance between national communication measures to local. In this panel leaders will seek to answer the following questions:
  • Is the current communication model working? 
  • How much autonomy should local organisations have in their communication?
  • To what extent does national communication objectives meet local needs

Mark Flannagan, Director of Marketing and Communications, Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust

Track B
On-stage interview – Creating campaigns with impact
Campaigns must inform and inspire a change in behaviour. It is therefore essential for leaders to continuously assess and evaluate the impact of their campaigns if there are to achieve this desired outcome. Surveys, email open rates, intranet analytics and focus groups are a few of the way to measure the effectiveness of your campaign. In this session leaders will learn how to: 
  • Obtain good quality feedback to improve services and achieve best practice in communication 
  • Maximise and deploy different methods to measure communication with citizen for maximum impact
  • Utilise the incoming insights to reflect the voice and needs of audience
Claire Whitelaw, Head of Communications and Engagement, Durham University


Track A Panel discussion continued
Track B
Case study: Maintaining the benefits of collaborative working and stakeholder relationships for the future
Lancashire has 12 district councils and over 200 parish and town councils. Throughout the pandemic, communication leaders, collaborated to unify their message to both staff and residents. This case study will share :
  • How head of communications in the county worked together to combine their communication
  • How to provide necessary information about the pandemic and well as share intelligence to better serve for their residents

Smyth Harper, Head of Communications, Lancashire County Council





Panel discussion: Rethinking ways of working – the hybrid approach to communication teams

2020 proved that working from home is possible. Managers have been able to successfully support their teams, advise the CEO and shape the organisation’s narrative. This panel will discuss future ways of working and how to successfully deploy a hybrid approach. 

  • How to be forward thinking employers that allows flexibility in ways of working 
  • Changing thinking and reshaping organisation culture to fit the new normal
  • Exploring ways organisations can foster staff health and wellbeing

Moderator: Anna Cole, Public Affairs and Communication Consultant

Dan Charlton, Director of Communications, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust


Conference Close: Jo Moffatt, Managing Director, Woodreed and Anna Cole, Public Affairs and Communication Consultant


Sharon Sawers
Director of Communications, Cabinet Office

Sharon Sawers is the Director of Communication at the Cabinet Office. She leads external and internal communications including campaigns on priorities such as EU Exit and the Union.  

Prior to this she spent a decade at the Home Office as head of marketing and insight, leading campaigns to reduce crime, recruit police and tackle illegal migration.

Before working in Government she worked at media and advertising agencies including Saatchi and Saatchi.  

Laurian Hubbard
Head of Engagement, Welsh Parliament; Founder & Co-President, Women in PR Cymru

Laurian is a CIPR Fellow and award-winning Chartered PR Practitioner. She is currently the Head of Engagement for Welsh Parliament and has previously held senior positions in 10 Downing Street and Cabinet Office. Laurian is also the Founder and Co-President of Women in PR Cymru, International Board member of Global Women in PR, a Chartered Assessor for the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and listed in PRWeek’s Power Book 2021.

Twitter: @laurian_10

Andrea Newman
Director of Communication and Engagement, Surrey County Council

Andrea is an experienced communications professional who has successfully transitioned between the public and private sector. She is Director of Communications at Surrey County Council with responsibility for communicating to its 1.1 million residents and is currently leading the County's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In her previous role at global corporation KBR she led the communications strategy for a major corporate re-structuring, deploying to the company's HQ in Houston to work directly to the new Global CEO. During her 6 years on the UK Board, she led the development of a new brand and organisational culture programme. 

In her early Government career, Andrea supported the work of the Downing Street communications team, working closely with a number of Government departments as well as overseeing cross-government communications the government’s crisis response committee COBR(A).

Her strong background operating at a senior level in government communications and at Board level means she has excellent political judgement and strong leadership. She is passionate about politics and driving government policy. She thrives working in an environment where she can make a difference.



Paul Bates
Director of Strategy and Communications, London Borough of Lambeth

Paul Bates is Director of Strategy and Communications at the London Borough of Lambeth. He was appointed to the role in July 2019, reporting to the Chief Executive, Andrew Travers.

He joined Lambeth following a career in senior communications and external affairs roles, most recently at Notting Hill Genesis Housing and its predecessor organisation, Genesis Housing Association, where he was Director of Communications and External Affairs. Prior to that, he headed up communications at LB of Barking and Dagenham and before that at Luton Borough Council. Paul has also worked in HM Treasury on the establishment of what was Infrastructure UK and for Local Partnerships as Head of Communications.

Paul was also Head of Media at what was Help the Aged (now merged into Age UK) and led the Stop AIDS Campaign, a coalition of over 20 of the largest UK-based international charities united to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Paul is currently a Trustee of the Albert Kennedy Trust (akt), a charity working to combat homelessness among LGBTQ+ youth. He is also an Honorary Alderman of the LB of Southwark, where he was an elected councillor from 2002 – 2010.

Claire Riley
Executive Director of communications and corporate affairs, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Claire Riley is the Executive Director of communications and corporate affairs for Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and is also communications lead for the North East’s ICS/ICP, North Tyneside and Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group.  Claire is a qualified marketer and has a post graduate diploma in Marketing and a BA (Hons) in Business Management & Organisations with extensive experience in business, marketing and communications across public and private sectors.  She is a qualified and experienced lecturer.   Claire joined the trust in 2010 from her role as director of communications for the North East Strategic Health Authority, previous to this Claire was the marketing manager for Northumbrian Water Ltd. 

Claire is a non-executive director for a number of local and national organisations including; Explain Market Research Ltd, Active Northumberland, Age Uk (Everyday), Helpforce and is also Chair of Governors for Ashington Academy in Northumberland.

Claire holds the freedom of the City of London, is married with two girls, is a long-suffering Newcastle United fan and a life-long Wham! fan.

Paul Compton
Head of Communications and Engagement, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue
Claire Whitelaw
Head of Communications and Engagement, Durham University

Claire leads the communications and engagement team, comprising 12 communications professionals in two distinct specialist teams: strategic external and internal communications. They are part of the Advancement function, working strategically across Communications, Marketing and Development and Alumni Relations, delivering to the University Strategy 2017-2027 and the Global Strategy. She is a member of the Advancement senior leadership team. 

Through strategic communications activity, her team builds and manages Durham University’s external reputation with international, national and regional stakeholders and leads University-wide staff and student internal communications and engagement. They work across all areas of the University business.

Specifically, our remit covers strategic positioning and messaging; strategic stakeholder engagement; media relations; research profile raising; promoting thought leadership; corporate communications, including crisis, reputation and issues management; and leadership of University-wide internal communications and engagement including management of our core internal communications channels.

Smyth Harper
Head of Communications, Lancashire County Council

Smyth Harper is head of communications at Lancashire County Council, one of the biggest and most complex councils in the country, where he leads Lancashire's highly-regarded multi-agency communications response to the pandemic.

Prior to working at Lancashire County Council he held a range of senior public sector communications roles including: head of communications at Greater Manchester Combined Authority which included managing the comms for the Mayor of Greater Manchester's office and the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service; head of news and media at Manchester City Council; and head of Greater Manchester Police's press office. Before working in communications Smyth was a journalist, but don't hold this against him.

Outside of work he chairs LGBT Foundation, one of the UK's leading equality charities and is chair of governors at his local primary school. An Irishman who has made Manchester his home, Smyth has three cats who permit him and his partner Ed to live with them. Pre-pandemic he spent too much time on karaoke and not enough time in the gym.


Marysia (Morkis) Waters
Head of Communications and Engagement, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
Mark Flannagan
Director of Marketing and Communications, Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust Eaton Road

Mark joined Alder Hey in July 2017 from the UK Charity Beating Bowel Cancer, where he was Chief Executive.  He has a degree in Medieval History from the University of St Andrews and has worked for most of his career in the Third Sector in Communications, Campaigns and Policy.  Mark has extensive health experience, having worked at senior level in the Royal College of GPs, Royal College of Nursing, Diabetes UK and elsewhere.  Mark is responsible for internal and external communications, including media relations, brand, staff engagement campaigns and the website.

Niamh Byrne
Head of Communications and Engagement , Avon & Somerset Police & Crime Commissioner
Dan Charlton
Director of Communications, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Dan has over 20 years' experience in NHS communications. He is currently Director of Communications at Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, a specialist mental health and learning disability services provider. He is also Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Health Communications Research, New Bucks University.

You can find him on Twitter @Dan_Charlton1

Jo Moffatt
Partnerships Director of Engage for Success and Managing Director of Woodreed

Jo has been closely involved with the Engage for Success movement as a volunteer since its launch.  She is Partnerships Director as well as co-host of the weekly Engage for Success radio show. The Engage for Success purpose is ‘Inspiring people and workplaces to thrive’ which is absolutely aligned with Jo’s own vision ‘To make workplaces better places to be’.

Jo’s ‘day job’ is MD of Woodreed, a specialist ad agency who use the tools, techniques, creativity and insight of the advertising world to engage employees inside organisations.

Jo is passionate about brands and their power to move people.  She is equally passionate about employee engagement and its vital role in delivering a high performing organisation. Put the two together and she becomes almost evangelical about the power a well-positioned and consistently delivered brand has as a catalyst for employee engagement and organisational success.

Twitter handle for Woodreed                     @TunWellsWoodies

Linkedin profile                                                 Jo Moffatt

Twitter handle for Engage For Success    @Engage4Success

Anna Cole
Public Affairs and Communication Consultant

Anna is an accomplished public affairs and communication specialist, lobbyist and campaigner with over twenty years’ experience in organisations that include Liberty, Labour Campaign for Human Rights, National Council for One Parent Families, Times Higher Education and the Association of School and College Leaders. An experienced facilitator, trainer and public speaker, she is also a former family and human rights solicitor. 

Catherine Jevans
Community Engagement Manager, Surrey County Council

A marketing professional previously working at leading direct marketing agency Lowe and Partners. After a 15 year career break agency side I returned to the lure of Local Government having started my professional career at Brighton Council. Because….well there is never a dull moment, you never know what is going to land on your desk next.  A creative communications specialist striving for targeted communications based on data driven insights. Always looking for the new way in to reach different audiences and talk to them in a way that is meaningful to them.  

Amanda Nash
Head of Communications, Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust
Who should attend?

- Chief Press Officers - Heads of Corporate Communications - Heads of Transformation - Heads of Campaign Strategy - Heads of Communications - Heads of Community Engagement - Heads of Correspondence - Heads of Crisis Communications - Heads of Customer Service - Heads of Digital - Heads of Employee Engagement - Heads of Internal Communications - Heads of Marketing - Heads of Media - Heads of News - Heads of PR - Heads of Social Media - Heads of Strategy

Previous delegates to related events include professionals with the following job titles:

  • Director of External Affairs

  • Strategic Communications Manager

  • Head of Corporate Communications

  • Senior Policy Advisor

  • Senior Marketing Manager

  • Change Communications Lead

  • Head of Cabinet Communications

  • Press and Communication Officer

  • Publications and Content Manager

  • Director of Communications

From organisations including:

  • Scottish Association for Mental Health

  • The National Lottery Community Fund

  • Thames Valley Police

  • University of Leeds

  • Royal Opera House

  • HMRC

  • Natural History Museum

  • East Sussex County Council

  • Housing Plus Group

  • NHS England and NHS Improvement

How much does it cost to attend The Communications Conference?

Public Sector & Not for Profit  | 1 Place: £195 | 2+ Places: £145 each
Private Sector | 1 Place: £295 | 2+ Places: £245 each

When will I receive my joining link?

You will receive your link to join the Conference 24 hours before the start date.

 When do I receive joining instructions?

We will be sending out joining instructions to all delegates a couple of weeks prior to the conference.

Will the presentations from the sessions be put up online after the event?

We will upload all speaker presentations; they will all be available via the website in the days immediately after the conference.

How can I find out about speaking opportunities?

To make any speaker suggestions, please contact customer.services@dodsgroup.com

If you have any questions regarding our events or wish to attend an event, please contact our Customer Services team on 0207 593 5739 or via email.