The Big Society – the opportunity for PR
The highlight (for me at least) of yesterday’s Chartered Institute of Marketing was how government communications is changing – and who the winners and losers will be. Autumn Conference
Graham Brown of the COI talked vividly about how the combination of the new coalition government and the age of austerity is causing a fundamental rethink in Whitehall when it comes to and changing people’s behaviour.
Previously the COI was a purchaser of advertising and marketing on a massive scale, being the and the second biggest market research client amongst other statistics. All of this was informed by advanced understanding of ’s largest advertiser how to influence people’s behaviour but was very much a controlled, centralised activity.
From now on government communication is going to be much more of a conversation – building on initiatives such as the Big Society to be a two way process that isn’t focused on control and paid/commissioned marketing. Replacing this paid element will be using the content assets owned within government in a localised, more targeted way and earned marketing, essentially getting your message out through third parties with the right credibility to reach the audiences that government is targeting. So, for example, working with the press and impartial social media sites such as Mums.net and NetMums to get messages across to parents in the right language so that behaviour is changed.
By my reckoning, both of these two elements (owned and earned) fall directly into the skillset of public relations. We should be experts at creating content and identifying and targeting the right channels to deliver the content to the right audiences. It may not be as high profile as enormous TV advertising campaigns but it strikes me that PR should become the mainstay of government communications moving forward. The issue is, can the PR industry shake off the tag of being middlemen stuck between the story and the audience and show where we can add sufficient value to take our place in this brave new world of government communications. With the Comprehensive Spending Review looming, the ball is very much in PR’s court.