The public service comms challenge

Effective public service comms can help keep children safe, help companies grow and reinforce people's rights and responsibilities.

Alex Aiken: 'Our aim must be to ensure that every government campaign meets the highest standard for effectiveness.'
Alex Aiken: 'Our aim must be to ensure that every government campaign meets the highest standard for effectiveness.'

We all remember the great campaigns like ‘Those that can, teach’, which recruited a new generation of teachers. These campaigns are delivered by committed and able government communicators, often in partnership with Britain’s best PR agencies.

It is a huge privilege to be asked to lead the government comms function. My initial focus will be on harnessing existing best practice to deliver more effective and efficient comms and on improving training and development opportunities.

Government comms needs to build on success, celebrate the many things we do well, but change further to meet global, democratic and digital challenges.

In terms of the global challenge, Britain has world-beating PR companies to call upon. Innovative campaigns like the ‘GREAT’ Britain campaign showcase well what the best of UK government and agency PR can achieve.

The democratic challenge means continuing to work in a climate of austerity but also unprecedented scrutiny: every penny of public spending has to demonstrate value for money. Achieving that value would be helped, I believe, through a more rigorous focus on campaign evaluation. Accelerating the delivery of the shared services communication hubs between departments is also vital – as is the new procurement framework for government contracts.

To meet the digital challenge I will be seeking ideas on how all campaigns can be integrated across traditional and digital media. Initiatives like the ‘Fire Kills’ campaign already do this; but our aim must be to ensure that every government campaign meets the highest standard for effectiveness.

At every stage I will listen carefully to the views of colleagues. Together, I am sure we can create an exceptional government comms service from the existing strong base working to promote public services and the best that the UK can offer the world.

Alex Aiken is comms head at Westminster City Council. He will take over as executive director of government comms in April.

View Alex Aiken's previous PRWeek columns

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