Taking stock of a bright summer for PR

I think we can safely say summer is over and, with this thought, I would point out what a good summer it has been for the public sector and for public sector communications.

Luke Blair: Much to admire in public sector comms teams
Luke Blair: Much to admire in public sector comms teams

The whole Olympic communications campaign, anticipation and run up, expectation management and logistics planning, went extremely well.

The Cultural Olympiad also did well, in fact so well it is now being considered as a regular fixture.

The Queen’s Jubilee rose above the appalling weather and issues over media coverage to triumph in the end.

Transport authorities, local government and the emergency services pulled together to make all of the above go really rather smoothly.

And this in the face of incredibly tight public finances and increasing budget pressures.

So – since they don’t often get the plaudits – perhaps it is one of those rare moments when we say "well done" to our communications colleagues in Whitehall, Town Hall, and other institutions, across the country.

There is much talk these days of the public sector learning from the private, getting itself more commercial, lean and professional, and more business-like.

But this summer has also reinforced the point that the private sector has as much to learn from the public, for example by pulling together when the moment demands it, by working across organisational boundaries, and using the kinds of economies of scale only available in large institutions and networks.

As someone who has spent their career to-ing and fro-ing between public and private sector, and has led a few public sector communications teams as their interim director, I can safely say the learning is not all one way.

I recently reviewed communications for one public institution for example and was struck by the energy, enthusiasm and professional commitment among its staff, in a department which had been through its fair share of restructure and reorganisation in recent years.  Now that is what I call resilience.

Sure, it is a truism to say that those in public sector communications have a sense of public service ethos which goes above and beyond commitment to the pay packet.  

Equally, we all know how hard it is to incentivise a team when you have no levers like performance related bonuses, individually agreed salary targets, and commercially-linked KPIs.

All the more reason then to admire those in pared down public sector teams who have done so much more than simply keep the wheels turning this summer and deliver a quite extraordinary 2012.


Luke Blair is a director at London Communications Agency, the specialist consultancy focusing on the capital.

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