Speed dates, barbecues a winner

Supreme winner: L-R: Charlotte FitzPatrick (now Belle PR) with Liz Stolwyk, Susan O’Regan, and Sally Sheedy from Waipā District Council. 

The Waipā council communications’ team took out the major prize at the public relations annual award last week for its entry encouraging residents to get involved in the council’s Long Term Plan.

Charlotte FitzPatrick, Regan Schoultz, Natalia Pepperell, Karen Cousins, Claire Culph and Amber Diprose flipped a routine legislative consultative process on its head and embarked on 17 months of targeted, innovative community relations work, judges for the Public Relations Institute of Awards (Prinz) said.

‘What’s next Waipā?’ inspired residents to share their needs and wants for their district. The campaign also won gold in the Community Relations and Engagement category.

FitzPatrick was Communications and Engagement manager at the time and now owns her own Cambridge-based public relations consultancy Belle PR. Schoultz is now a communications consultant at Beca.

PRINZ Awards chief judges, Denise Mackay and Andrew Pirie said this was a creative two-way communication programme that resulted in record engagement for Waipā.

“When tasked with managing public consultation on a council’s long-term plan, many communications practitioners would be tempted to just “go through the motions” with a conventional approach.”

The judges were impressed at the innovative yet highly disciplined way the Waipā District Council team sought to address a well-known national issue – getting the community engaged in local government planning.

They mentioned the depth of planning involved to reach hard-to-engage community segments, as well as the detailed focus on results – even down to measuring the numbers of ice creams and sausages the community consumed as indicators of engagement.

The PRINZ Awards recognise excellence in the New Zealand’s public relations and communications industry, promoting continuous improvement, and celebrating best practice.

Waipā District Council chief executive Garry Dyet said the awards showcased a council commitment to inviting the community to be involved early in complex and long-term discussions.

“We started our long-term plan journey in March 2020 with community BBQs to gather our community’s thoughts on their vision and strategic priorities for the district,” he said.

“Then in 2021, we held lots of community events, including coffee with the mayor, speed dating with the councillors and drop-in sessions to truly connect with our community in ways that really resonated with our residents. It was a lot of effort, involving a lot of people across the organisation.

“Having meaningful engagement with our community shapes the way Waipā moves forward and our communications and engagement team created the opportunities for many of those conversations. I’m very proud of this award, it is well deserved.”

Supreme Award: 
Winner: Belle PR, Beca and Waipā District Council, – What’s next Waipā?

Community Relations and Engagement 
Gold: Belle PR, Beca and Waipā District Council, – What’s next Waipā?
Silver: Mango Communications Aotearoa and McDonald’s New Zealand – Ordered from here at Fieldays.

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