Embedding the new approach
Planning and delivery of government proactive communications in a collaborative fashion is now well underway. Hubs formally came into existence on 1 April 2012 (in concert with the final closure of COI), having operated in shadow form since October 2011.
The immediate benefits of the change can be seen in this plan. Our new approach has brought together communicators from different organisations in government, who nonetheless share objectives, audiences or channels. Duplication of effort and activity has been identified and removed, and the package of measures presented by hubs is more streamlined and efficient. In addition, those organisations that have embraced this joined-up way of working are already making savings by sharing services such as press offices, digital, training and people.
But there is much more still to do before collaborative working is embedded as the norm for government communications. Further changes are needed in the planning and delivering of communications for many organisations to help their communications teams to offer a long-term vision of how communications can deliver the organisation’s policy or business aims.
Universal adoption of the new approach will help communications teams deliver this within their organisation. The planning of communication needs to start earlier, and a standard planning cycle needs to be established which all parts of government communication sign up to – with implications for how communication functions work with policy teams.
Evaluation and effectiveness
A more planned approach will help reduce the perceived risk associated with more innovative, potentially more cost effective communications. To do this a greater culture of testing and learning before full roll out will be required.
We have seen positive developments from organisations which are setting clear and robust objectives for their campaigns, in order to be able to quantify and evaluate the impact of each. This needs to become universal, ensuring that every campaign is designed to achieve a specific set of outcomes, linked to government policy priorities. We also need to develop a universal set of metrics and budgeting methodologies, common to every hub and every campaign.
Whilst hub leaders have made progress in many areas, particularly at a senior level, more needs to be done on day to day sharing of resource. With some notable exceptions, staff resource is still largely deployed in silo fashion, with the emphasis on the short term needs of each organisation. The better planning described above will help address this, with hub leaders able to identity peaks and troughs of activity and suggest resource sharing appropriately. Greater emphasis on engaging with the Government Communications Centre in a collective fashion will assist hub leaders in bringing coherence.
Integrating the spending controls with these plans
This process will also be assisted by making longer term planning integral to how Efficiency and Reform Group (ERG) expenditure requests are considered. Whilst ERG approval will still be required in order to demonstrate that these proposals can be delivered in an efficient and effective manner, the advance notice provided through longer term planning will allow the Government Communications Centre to work with colleagues across government on large, expensive or complex areas to ensure that requests meet the ERG criteria, simplifying and speeding up the process for the requesting organisation.
Business In You is an enterprise campaign developed by BIS with the support of the central communication team in No10 / Cabinet Office. It highlights support for start-ups and growing businesses, providing links to the help that is available via BusinessLink, StartUpBritain and other partners.
The campaign was designed with an ‘open-source’ proposition and message which means it will dovetail with a wide range of existing government organisations and embrace a portfolio of issues as part of a ‘year of enterprise’.