Government spending on comms halved and more cuts to come

The Government cut its annual spend on comms by more than half during the last Parliament and aims to reduce it further, according to its annual comms plan.

Westminster: Government comms plan includes storytelling and integrating online and offline channels
Westminster: Government comms plan includes storytelling and integrating online and offline channels
The Government Communications Service has set out its priorities for the next 12 months in its fourth annual plan, saying it will articulate a ‘One Nation’ narrative around themes including "helping working people" and "securing Britain’s place in the world".

The Government's total comms spend was £410m in 2013/14, down from £881m in 2009/10 – but in a foreword to the plan, Matthew Hancock, the paymaster general, said the GCS needed to "go further" in reducing spending.

Introducing the plan, which is aimed at government comms as well as partners and stakeholders, Alex Aiken, executive director for government comms, echoed David Cameron’s comments last week that civil service comms should be "human, clear, simple, helpful and professional".

Aiken said: "Effective communication performs an essential role right across Government. Our plan is clear; the work we do every day is to deliver world-class campaigns to save and enrich people’s lives."

Aiken also set out a new ‘audience insight function’ that would commission audience research to drive government campaigns over the coming 12 months, as well as a ‘cross-government insight network’ to share knowledge and ideas. The team will work with GCS to monitor trends in the comms industry.

The plan also sets out a blueprint for how the GCS creates its strategies, including building an evidence base of comms techniques that work best with different audiences and then using them in separate campaigns across multiple government departments.

The six core audiences for government campaigns are families, young people, working-age people, older people, businesses and international.

The GCS plan sets out some of the challenges of delivering campaigns in 2015, such as a fragmented media landscape that gave people more control over how and when they access content and the increasing difficulty of breaking "through the noise" to reach them.

The increasing pressure on people’s time was also cited, meaning comms must be "as relevant and engaging as possible" to be noticed.

To cope with these changing demands, the plan sets out how the GCS will integrate its online and offline channels to work seamlessly, use storytelling to make an emotional connection with audiences and make content relevant and timely.

Forthcoming campaigns include one to increase the number of blood donors and another to reduce premature mortality among older people, as well as an awareness-raising campaign to promote the use of smart meters.

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