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10 minutes with... Rachael Mills, PR & Communications Manager for BCP Council


Tell us a little about your role…

I am the PR & Communications Manager for BCP Council on the south coast. We were previously three separate councils of Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch which have come together to form the 12th largest local authority in the UK. We went live on April 1 2019 and so we are still very much in the early days of transforming services for more than 400,000 residents with a budget of £700million.  Within my own service we provide a full in-house marketing and communications offer including PR services, marketing, campaigns, digital, branding and design. 

Which three words best sum up the priorities and personality of BCP Council? 

Transformation, sustainability and community

What’s your best PR moment to date?

This is a difficult one because there has been so many.  There is nothing as diverse as local government in terms of the range of services you are working with and it can be challenging and emotional at times. Some of my best career moments have been centred around our handling of crisis situations from weather event related emergencies and floods to bomb scares and even the tragic death of a Red Arrow pilot following a crash. But there is also immense pride and satisfaction from dealing with the everyday too.

What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing the industry at the moment?

In local government there is no doubt – it is the funding crisis. Councils are having to think outside the box and come up with more and more innovative ways to meet successive budget cuts and maintain standards and effective service delivery. At the same time you need to keep your team upskilled, invest to keep up with industry developments and ensure you retain excellent quality staff. It is a balancing act.

If you had to impart one piece of advice to your team what would it be?

That you can only advise. It is sadly an age-old thing in local gov that so many can and still do believe anyone can do comms which can frustrate many in my team, especially when they witness those individuals come back seeking help when their attempts have not had the desired outcomes or even worse, had an impact on the organisation’s reputation. Fortunately, those moments are rare now for us as we have developed excellent relationships across BCP Council but only after years of demonstrating the value and expertise we bring. 

Has pursuing a career in PR lived up to your expectations? Why?

Absolutely. I had ten years in journalism prior to going into public sector comms and I have no regrets. I remain passionate about quality journalism but through PR I have learnt so many new skills, come up with creative solutions to reach out to audiences and work in a sector I feel so strongly passionate about. 

We all love the South West but what do you consider the key benefits of working in this region?

What’s not to love! Working on the south coast in a large authority means plenty of challenge and stimulus every day but you get to leave and within minutes can be enjoying a glass of wine on the beach in the evening sun.  

What’s your PR secret?

Plan, plan, and plan again and play to your team’s strengths. Failing that a safe place to vent and plenty of gin.