Luke Blair: diversity proves to be a comms challenge

The search for ever more effective means of communicating with local ratepayers is, for public sector PR professionals, never ending.

Luke Blair: more research needed
Luke Blair: more research needed

From controversial newspaper-style council freesheets, to twitter feeds supplying updates on local services and events, just about every kind of tool, channel, device and format is out there, being used by public agencies.

What makes keeping up with all this such a challenge is that, in cities like London in particular, no community uses quite the same channels as the one just across the road.

Ethnically rich areas – where the best way of spreading a message may be a notice in local places of worship or word of mouth in community forums – sit cheek by jowl with less community-centred, more transient areas where the best messaging might be through local posters, bus ads on particular routes, or banners down the high street.

Mapping this effectiveness is best done through research both pre and post campaign.  Over a defined period, a body of evidence will point to the most impactful channels – some of which may seem diametrically different to each other, while being only a postcode apart.

Perhaps surprisingly, the public sector is not particularly good at doing this research. I recently conducted a piece of work which revealed that out of a number of public organisations, half never or only occasionally commissioned research for, or evaluation of, their communication campaigns.

I don’t blame them.  In the current economic climate, one can imagine the sharp intake of breath produced by the suggestion that not only should money be spent delivering communication, but that it should also then be spent analysing that communication campaign’s effectiveness.

‘We will know if it’s worked because more people will use the service!’ One can hear those chief executives say. Unfortunately, these days it is not that easy.  These days, good output does not always mean good outcome.

But then, these days, things like Google Analytics are free, and what website would you build today without using them to analyse your traffic?

The answers are out there if you look hard enough for them.  And they don’t always mean more money.

Luke Blair is a director at the London Communications Agency

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