Rakhee Vithlani: How will cuts affect the general public?

Much media attention is currently being given to the level of budget cuts being applied to public sector communications. The lines are being drawn and regardless of whether you are in-house or external and whether you agree or not, the impact will be felt.

Rakhee Vithlani: work hard on proving what we do
Rakhee Vithlani: work hard on proving what we do
Tell me something I don’t know, I hear you all cry.

Well, hold on a minute. Let’s put our political preferences and personal views aside for one moment and think about the people that really matter here. The Great British Public.

Now before you all start spluttering in your lunchtime soups, yes, I’m fully aware of the costs of communications campaigns to the taxpayer. And the proposed benefits of reducing the national deficit. But, who, in this rather brutal axe-swinging process, is stopping to think about the long term social impact that these cuts will make?

As much as I’m a PR, I’m a member of the Great British Public and have seen positive results of campaigns which have directly informed people of really important issues. Whether it relates to breast cancer, drink-driving, drugs, taxes or what to do if you’re a victim of crime, I bet every single one of us can pinpoint a government-lead campaign which in some way, has impacted our behaviour. In some cases, these campaigns have helped to save lives.

It is time to ask some serious questions - in the absence of government funding, how can we as an industry work together to ensure that the public is kept informed? Is there an opportunity for the private sector to look more closely at their approach to social campaigns?   What partnerships can be forged? And are there places where individuals can take a greater responsibility?

As communications professionals, there are challenges ahead but opportunities too. I for one, welcome the increased interest in behaviour change models, on evaluation and the role that digital communications can play.

This is not a call to government to keep spending. This is a call to the industry to work hard on proving that what we do, as experts in our field, does have a positive, long term impact and it is not something which should be brushed aside.

Rakhee Vithlani is head of social campaigns at Weber Shandwick

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