Government comms staff must earn 'respect'

Government communicators must strive to earn more respect, it was claimed at a recent Whitehall meeting.

Whitehall: More attention to metrics
Whitehall: More attention to metrics

Following the Government revealing it was cutting predicted comms spend by £47m compared with last year, to £237m, a meeting was held with senior marcoms figures from the public and private sectors to discuss the coming year.

Among those attending was Dr Michelle Harrison, CEO of TNS BMRB, a social research agency for policymakers.

She said that although comms teams were ‘extremely good’, they were ‘not held in as high regard’ as in the private sector. She said: ‘Often in government it feels like economists are stars of the show.’

Executive director of government comms Alex Aiken acknowledged that work still needed to be done and pointed to evaluation as having a key role to play: ‘We can build respect, but it has to be built on solid foundations. One thing I have found in government comms is that it doesn’t pay enough attention to metrics.’

Dr David Halpern, head of the Government’s Behavioural Insights Team, backed Aiken’s call for communicators to resist ‘retreating into silos’.

He said: ‘Most policy concerns changing behaviour, and comms is about changing behaviour. That makes the comms profession part of the policy profession.’

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