Lessons from The GREAT Campaign

I wrote in one of these columns three years ago that watching different parts of the public sector trying to talk to each other was rather initially amusing, but ultimately rather depressing.

Luke Blair: Local government and the NHS struggle to communicate effectively
Luke Blair: Local government and the NHS struggle to communicate effectively

And guess what? Not much has changed.  In local government and health in particular, the closer crunching together of these two worlds under the banner of public health, accompanied by the formal creation of Health and Wellbeing Boards, is a case in point.
The idea is that public health formerly managed by NHS bodies – stuff like anti-smoking campaigns, breast screening awareness, and so on – should now be taken on by local councils.
They are getting money for it, but frankly hard pressed local authorities need more things to do like a hole in the head just now.  Equally, the NHS is in major reform and so moving yet another bit of the jigsaw around is yet more confusing, although you could argue now it the time to do it.

Anyway, what this has really done is got different parts of the NHS and local government talking to each other and, just as I found three years ago, it is not a collaborative relationship.

Where one body believes it has all the answers, the other challenges its assumptions.  Where one side claims to have the real expertise, the other discredits its evidence.  They don’t quite get round to insulting each other, in my experience, but it is clear there is not much love lost.

I wonder if academics from different specialisms find each other obtuse in the same way?  Or are they united by a desire simply to provide the best education for their students?  One would hope local government and the NHS are united by the desire to deliver the best services for their taxpayers.  It rarely seems to be the case.

And yet it is possible for boundaries to be crossed and bits of the public sector to work together for a common cause.  The GREAT campaign – in which various British things such as historic buildings, famous figures, iconic designs, fashion and culture – have the word ‘Great’ stuck in front of them to promote Britain as the place to be, shows real joining up.

The campaign has been rolled out across central and local government, across small localities and grand international locations, with materials small and large, adapted and adaptable, to provide a co-ordinated strategic promotion during 2012 and beyond.

For me it is not so much the ‘Great Britishness’ of it that works, but the fact that it has been so well integrated across platforms, media, sectors and locations.

Other parts of the public sector, and those responsible for improving communication within and between them, should take note.

Luke Blair is a director at London Communications Agency.

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