We interviewed Shanna Crispin - Communications and Marketing Manager at Masterton District Council who shared what she enjoys most about working in local government, some of the challenges of working in marketing and communications in local government and what she gets up to in her spare time.

Tell us about your career – what did you do prior to being the Communications and Marketing Manager at Masterton District Council?

Like many Communications professionals, I started my career in journalism; radio was my first love and I ended up specialising in business journalism before moving into the world of communications (the bright side) as a media advisor in Western Australia. After a few roles in the private sector I got my first taste of government in Wellington working at the Electricity Authority.

Tell us about some exciting projects the Masterton District Council communications and marketing team are working on at the moment?

Promoting the local body elections is taking a lot of resource and is an exciting project for us. I feel strongly that working to increase voter turnout is one of the most important projects we can dedicate our time to, but it’s challenging trying to halt, let alone reverse, the downward trend. This is especially true considering the limitations on advertising and promoting elections. We’ve also just rolled out a new recycling service across the entire Wairarapa region. While that may not sound all that exciting, the behaviour change aspect certainly presents a juicy communications challenge!

Why are professional organisations like SOLGM important for the sector?

Through SOLGM I have been able to connect with various like-minded professionals around the country. The probability of another Council having faced similar challenges is extremely high and there’s no point reinventing the wheel. The openness to sharing and sense of comradery has certainly surprised me and has been valuable on more than just one occasion. We all need to continue learning from each other and sharing our experiences to improve how we communicate with and engage our communities.

What do you enjoy most about working in local government?

Put simply, our decisions get people talking. People care about the roads they drive on, water they drink and local amenities. My role is to be the eyes and ears of the Council and get a sense of how our community thinks or feels about different issues, and then feeding that back to the Council to inform decision-making. The constant interaction between the community and gather thoughts, feedback and ideas to help us make better decisions is what gets me out of bed every day.

What are some of the challenges in working in marketing and communications in local government?

There are two things that come to mind; resourcing and misunderstanding. Two-way communication takes time, energy and a willingness to listen. It doesn’t happen quickly and often we only have small teams available to manage these engagements. Secondly, the term ‘communications’ is continually misunderstood. For me it’s all about finding new and effective ways to enable conversations with our communities and, just as importantly, ensuring all this rich information is gathered and fed back to our Elected Members in useful and meaningful ways.

What do you get up to in your spare time?

I’m currently completing my Accreditation in Public Relations through the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand. It means that much of my spare time is currently spent down communications rabbit holes – but it’s time well spent and, as a self-confessed “communications nerd” I’m loving every minute of it. Outside of the study, renovations on the house, running with the dog and enjoying the great outdoors keep me busy.