Government in fresh marcomms efficiency drive

The Government is introducing mandatory evaluation of all departmental marcomms activity and a new “professional” body to try and raise marketing capability standards across Whitehall as it continues to look for ways to make its vastly reduced budget go further. 

The Cabinet Office has unveiled an 11-point plan to reform Government marcomms and implement the priorities set out in the communication plan for tax year 2013/14 set out in June.

Additional spending controls will be introduced requiring departments to justify expenditure by laying out in greater detail what the objectives and outcomes for the activity are. There will also be mandatory post campaign evaluation.

In a briefing to journalists to announce the reforms, executive director of Government Communication Alex Aiken said the changes reflect the need to get more value for money for taxpayers.

“Does the fact that we spent £1bn on marcomms in 2010 and £500m now means we are half as effective or twice as efficient? The evaluation wasn’t there [before]. People were doing the right thing because they believed it had impact and were mandated to do it by ministers and others. They didn’t do the critical piece and asked what worked.”

Post-campaign evaluation will also include what Aitken describes as “deep dives” to determine what worked in a campaign and what didn’t. A Government Communication Board consisting of ministers, private secretaries and departmental directors of communications will also be setup to review strategy.

Meanwhile, the Government Communication Service will be introduced in January 2014 and will be responsible for co-ordinating and maintaining standards for all Government communications staff. Training, career development and recruitment strategies will also be co-ordinated by the body.

It will also be responsible for sharing and implementing best practice. For example, it will roll out HMRC’s campaign evaluation system across Whitehall.

Predecessor the Government Communications Network primarily acted as a centralised training body.

The changes follow a 12-month capability review, which found “brilliant staff constrained by outmoded and outdated processes and structures”, according to Sean Larkins, head of government communication policy and capability, speaking at the briefing.

The Government’s 11-point plan for marcomms

  • Creating a new Government Communication Service
  • Mandatory evaluation
  • Aligning departmental communications strategies with government priorities
  • Improving spending controls
  • The introduction of a Government Communication Board
  • Creation of structures to align work of departments and their major arms-length bodies
  • Improving cross-government internal communications
  • Improving regional communication services
  • Enhancing existing Communications Hubs
  • Providing additional central resource to support departments
  • Integrating social media and digital channels within the press office function

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