Oliver Hickson: Partnership comms lies at the heart of the Big Society

Over the last 15 years we have seen the proliferation of public and private sector partnerships whether official ones like commercial funding for schools - academies, free schools to the marketing partnerships for example Tesco's books for schools.

Oliver Hickson: partnerships are growing in sophistication
Oliver Hickson: partnerships are growing in sophistication

What we have seen is the increasing sophistication of these partnerships from in the old days to a simple badging exercise to fully blown strategic partnerships.  

Results speak for themselves and the properly developed partnerships have produced excellent results both for the government and the commercial sector. Tesco's books for schools released over a million new books for primary and secondary schools and also concided with Tesco's rapid growth to the UK's number 1 supermarket.
With the Teenage preganancy campaign, Superdrug were so committed that they ensured they had trained pharmacy assistants to talk through the key campaign messages to young people. They also tied this in with an in store promotion with Durex. Again, the results were impressive with a lowering in teenage pregrnacny rates in the areas where the partnership work coincided.
In 2011 we are now in a situation where the current government is more committed to partnership work than ever before - see the NHS Reform programme inextricably linking to the private sector providers.

However, there is a big danger here as for partnerships to really work both sides need to be contributing at least equally. With the public sector cuts it could well mean that the private sector gain too much control in the end deal ending up with too many rights, branding and commercial  opportunities as opponents of the initial NHS Reform programme stated was happening.                 
Partnership working lies at the heart of the Big Society programme, which to truly work needs real government partnership experts, charities that still exist and a commercial sector and a public that understand how they fit into joint working with government.    

Oliver Hickson is MD of Hickson Communications and former PR director at the COI

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